Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The wise men followed the light of a star to Bethlehem. That light led them to the true light of the world, Jesus Christ. After seeing that Light, they went home by another way, no longer following a star, but the light of Christ that they now carried in their hearts. As we celebrate this great feast of the Epiphany, we are marking a solemnity that for many centuries was regarded as even more important than Christmas. While the birth of Jesus into our time, space, and history is, of course, of vital import, it is the manifestation of Jesus to the nations, represented by these three wise men/magicians/kings, that is celebrated by the Church universal. This is very much a feast of the Church, as the whole mission of the Church is to manifest the light of Christ to the whole world.
The three wise men remind us of some important aspects of our Lord’s plan for salvation. First, they come from the East, a biblical way of saying that they are not Israelites. We will find many instances in Scripture where God speaks of a plan to save the world – not Israel alone. Rather, it is through Israel, God’s chosen people, that the new and eternal covenant is going to be established. The new covenant will be for all, regardless of nation of origin. Second, the wise men saw the star at its rising. That is, they were attentive to the signs of the world around them. Why were they attentive if not because they desired something more than the world they knew and saw in front of them? The wise men remind us that there are many hearts seeking something more than the standard of the world. There are many people out there who have never heard the Gospel, who have no faith in God, yet desire something eternal and are searching with sincere hearts after that something. The Epiphany, then is a day for us to remember our call to be evangelists, to meet those who are searching and guide them to answer they seek. Third, the wise men show us the power of conversion. An encounter with Jesus, the living God, makes a difference. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians (2:10-11) that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, on earth, in heaven, and under the earth. That is, there is no other name by which we are saved, there is no other hope for salvation other than in Christ. And so the wise men, having found this salvation and seen the Lord Jesus, are transformed. They return to their lives, but their lives are forever changed by knowing God’s gift of mercy and salvation.
As we have moved through this Christmas season, we have meditated at the creche, knelt before the manger, kept watch with the shepherds, and embraced the ideal of the Holy Family, and now we join the wise men who seek the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Epiphany is a present celebration, but it is also a mystery that we must keep throughout the year. The wise men followed the light of a star to Bethlehem. That light led them to the true light of the world, Jesus Christ. After seeing that Light, they went home by another way, no longer following a star, but the light of Christ that they now carried in their hearts. By our encounter with the Lord Jesus today, may we go home transformed, carrying His light to our world.