The Epiphany of The Lord
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany. An epiphany is a moment of great revelation. In the east the epiphany commemorates Jesus’ baptism, where Jesus was revealed as God’s beloved son. In the west we celebrate the revelation of Christ to the non-Jews when the young Messiah is revealed as the light of the nations, and adored by the Magi who have travelled from the East.
Christian tradition sees in the Magi the 1st fruits of those who come to Jesus whilst professing a different faith. The Epiphany is an affirmation of universal salvation so today we pray for those of other faiths to come to the fullness of the truth. It’s also an appropriate time for us to reflect on how we respond to God’s revelation of his Son, and what gifts we are prepared to offer the Lord.
Within each of us there is an emptiness that we need to fill. The inner restlessness we experience is driven by the desire to fill this void which can only, ultimately, be filled by God. But instead of having a star to guide us, Christians respond to this yearning by responding to the light of Christ within our hearts.
Today we reflect on how we respond to this light. God doesn’t want material gifts from us. The response God wants is our offering of our self. The true gift of the Magi is their adoration of the infant Jesus. The gold, frankincense and myrrh ae outward signs of their interior gift of self. Likewise, God is seeking our adoration, our interior gift of self; our perpetual offering of prayer. And as our prayer life is synonymous with our faith life, our living faith is the gift Jesus wants from us.
The first stage of faith is an interior conversion, characterized by our actively turning towards God—all that is good, beautiful and true—and away from sin. The hallmark is a radical change of life, meaning we try as best as possible to live without obvious sin.
The next stage involves proficiency in virtue. Virtues are good habits we acquire through practice and with the help of grace. They enable us to pursue Christian ideals, to live in accordance with the Gospels after the example of Jesus. For example, we are called to embrace honesty, compassion, generosity, fidelity, forgiveness, integrity, fairness, prudence, charity etc.
In the final or unitive stage of faith, our love is purified. This stage isn’t about practicing virtue, but seeking union with God. This stage is driven by our desire for God on whom we have set all our affections. If we don’t achieve this purity of love, this purification will be completed in the next life – being the point at which we enter heaven. Ultimately it is the force of love makes us one in spirit with God, and our will becomes one with the will of God. One who truly adores the Lord wants only what God wants.
On this feast of the Epiphany, let us rededicate our hearts to God. Let us offer our desires, hopes, our hearts and minds, and even our will to God. Our living faith is the gift Jesus wants from us. We ask Mary, who showed to the Wise Men the new king of the world, to reveal Jesus Christ ever more profoundly to us and to help guide us along the ways of living faith. Amen.