Reading I: Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm: 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Reading II: Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6
Gospel: Matt 2: 1-12
Recently, I was in the crowd at a dissertation defense of a young woman whose family fled violence from her native country into the United States. For every member of her family, English language was foreign to them, except in the movies and TV shows they watched with subtitles back home. Notwithstanding the challenges of a foreign language and a culture, they were convinced of the providence of God in their successful relocation to the United States. She believed that the efforts of her family alone would not have made their relocation to the United States a reality if God was not guiding the process from the beginning through their successful resettlement. She overcame the challenges of learning a new language to earn a doctoral degree in Business Administration. When I congratulated her at the end of her successful dissertation defense, she bellowed: “God gave me this degree, and made this country a place of success for me.”
In the first reading today, God has positioned Jerusalem as the center of a new life and a new beginning for all peoples. God has made Jerusalem the place of shelter, refuge and encounter for all peoples. Jerusalem becomes a place where divine glory and splendor spread out to the ends of the earth bringing about a happy life for all peoples (Isaiah 60:1-2). The tradition identifies Jerusalem as the city of God, and the dwelling place of God on earth. God has made the city a beacon of hope, a standard of good life and human flourishing for all peoples. It is important to keep in mind that the role God has assigned the city of Jerusalem includes the inhabitants of the city, the children of Israel (Isaiah 60:4). Therefore, God has given the city and its inhabitants the mandate to make the presence of God known in the world. The splendor and the shining light of the city is amplified by the inhabitants of Jerusalem who mirror the presence of God in the world.
The same is true in the second reading as St. Paul speaks about his stewardship of the presence of the grace of God to benefit the church in Ephesus (Eph 3:2). He received the revelation of the mystery of the presence of God in the world; and he positioned himself to be the herald of God’s invitation of relationship with the gentiles, who through Paul’s ministry have been called into membership in the household of God. In other words, through the revelation of the mystery of God in Jesus Christ, gentiles have become children of the household of God with the rights to inheritance (Eph 3:6). They have become members of the same body, sharing in fellowship, equality and nobility. In Jesus Christ, God has united the human family into one divine household as the visit of the Magi revealed in the gospel reading.
The magi arrived in Jerusalem bearing offerings in order to worship the newborn King of the Jews. Since tradition links the earthly origin of the king to the house of David in order to fulfill God’s promise to the children of Israel for a King and Messiah who will inaugurate God’s reign of peace, the magi went down to Bethlehem to see the newborn King who will lead all peoples in peace, unity, and goodwill (Matt 2:5, 7). Their visit mirrors the plan of God for a new beginning in the world for all peoples. Just as the glory of God illuminated Jerusalem drawing all peoples to the city, likewise an unusual star reveals the birth of the Savior of the world setting off the magi on a journey to worship the King, the Messiah (Matt 2:2). Their visit fulfills the prayerful imagination of the words of the Palmist for today’s liturgy that kings and nations shall offer obeisance to the Lord (Ps. 72:11). In the same way, St. Paul heralded the presence of God among the gentiles, bringing the good news of peace to them. Just as in the first reading the nations will sing the praises of God in cultic ceremony in Jerusalem, likewise the magi engage in cultic and votive offerings to the newborn king (Matt 2:11).
The church invites us on the feast of Epiphany to illuminate the presence of God in the world, and to allow the epiphany of God to shine forth from us to the world. Just as the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, Paul and his companions, and the magi from the east, we too ought to bring the world to the presence of God who has revealed the profundity of the divine nature in Christ Jesus. Christ is revealed us to today; and we ought to make Christ known to a world broken down by hatred, bigotry, inequality, racial tensions, and violence. Our celebration of the Epiphany of our Lord is an invitation to us to allow the radiance of the presence of Christ to shine forth from us and breakdown barriers that divide and enslave us against one another so that the glory of God can shine through us.
Ferdinand Okorie, CMF
Vice President and Academic Dean