Epiphany

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

This Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, His manifestation to all the nations represented by the Wise Men or Magi coming from the east.

The word that we use to designate this celebration, Epiphany, also the name of a parish in South Miami, comes from a Greek word that can be literally translated as manifestation or revelation or apparition.

To try to understand why God reveals himself, why this manifestation of the Lord to all the nations, we must begin with a consideration of the nature of God Himself. Throughout the Christmas season we have been hearing fragments of the First Letter of St. John. It is in that book of the New Testament that we find the expression “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”.

All of Holy Scripture is the self-revelation of God to humanity, yet that verse of the First Letter of St. John summarizes everything that our Christian faith is about. It is also the novelty of the Biblical faith.  God is the source of all being, He is eternal, He is almighty, omniscient but above all, He is love. Because He is love, He loves, He creates everything that exists and He creates us in his image and likeness so that we can come to partake of His own love and life in a special way. Not only that, His love for us is so radical, so passionate, that He embraces our human nature without ceasing to be God, so that our human nature is irrevocable united to His divine nature. That is the Good News that the birth of Jesus brings and the Church proclaims to all the corners of the world, to all the nations. It is a fact that we know with certainty, because God in His infinite mercy deigned to reveal it to us, or rather because God has revealed Himself to us. Throughout the Christmas season we have also been listening the opening passages of the Letter to the Hebrews, that summarizes this fact with great eloquence: “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, a who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word.”

Obviously, the summit of God’s self-revelation is the Incarnation, his becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Jesus Christ true God and true man, by his life, his actions, his death and resurrection reveals to us who God is, how much He loves us. He also reveals to us, who we are, what it means to be human, how we are to live our lives, what our destiny is, where we came from and what we exist for.

God reveals Himself to us so that by knowing Him we may come to grow in communion with Him. The Revelation of God presupposes human nature. In Holy Scripture, God speaks to us in a human form, through human words, with the cooperation of human authors who provide their own idiosyncrasies and God given talent as they write the inspired Word of God.  His Word, of course, is meant to be heard. If nobody had the ability to listen, to hear, to read, then it would be pointless, a futile and useless effort directed at nobody, something that would be impossible for God is perfect, in Him there is nothing superfluous.

Precisely because He loves with infinite and perfect love, He desires to share His love and His life. God lacks nothing and does not need anything. He is infinitely blessed and perfectly content with Himself. The reason why He created us and He reveals himself to us all is that He loves us. He desires to be known and loved by all, not because of a compulsion or some kind of love deprivation, but precisely because He loves with perfect love. That is also the reason why He gave us a free will, so that we can freely respond to the love He offers.

The self-manifestation of God presupposes human nature but demands a response. It requires firstly that we be attentive to it, but also that we respond to it, just like the Magi.

They set out from the east to go meet the King that is born, because they are open to an encounter with God. When they discern through their knowledge of astronomy a manifestation of God, they respond by setting out on a journey to Jerusalem to find the King. They further inquire with those who could reasonably assist in their efforts to encounter this King who is born, this revelation of a Divine intervention in human history. They notice and they respond with docility, allowing themselves to be taught.

May the Lord give the grace of a discerning and docile heart, so that we may also respond to His revelation with our entire lives, ready to adjust our lives to His teaching, grow in communion with Him, and proclaim to the world the very Good News the Magi encountered when they came before the Lord!

Fr. Roberto M. Cid