FIRST READING (The glory of the Lord shines upon you.)
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (60:1-6)
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13)
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you. (Ps 72:11)
O God, with your judgment endow the king, and with your justice, the king’s son; he shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment. (R)
Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more. May he rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. (R)
The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the king of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him. (R)
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him. He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save. (R)
SECOND READING (Now it has been revealed that the Gentiles are coheirs of the promise.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (3:2-3a, 5-6)
Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Mt 2:2)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. (R)
GOSPEL (We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (2:1-12)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him. “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“Go and search diligently for the child.”
We gather today to follow in the footsteps of the Magi on this journey, following the Star of Bethlehem. “Epiphany” means manifestation. And the “Epiphany of the Lord,” our feast today, is the manifestation of Jesus not just to the three Magi from the East, but symbolically this is the manifestation of the Christ to the whole world. These Magi, traveling from a foreign and non-Jewish nation, reveal that Jesus came for all people and all are called to him.
According to tradition, the Magi were wise men who studied the stars and were aware of the Jewish belief that a Messiah was destined to appear. They would have been versed in much of the wisdom of the day and would have been intrigued by the Jewish belief in a Messiah, the Anointed One.
God used what they were familiar with, the study of the stars, to call them over a long distance to adore the Christ. God used a star – a bright, unique star. They understood the stars and when they saw this new and special star over Bethlehem, they realized that something special was happening. So the first lesson we take from this for our own lives is that God will use what is familiar to us to call us to Himself – to draw us to Him. Can you see the “star” that God is using to call you? It may be closer than you imagine.
Another aspect to note in the story of the Magi is that they fell and prostrated themselves before the Christ Child. They laid their lives down before Him in complete surrender and adoration. They set for us a perfect example. If these astrologers from a foreign land could come and adore Christ in such a profound way, we should do the same. Have you ever tried to prostrate yourself in prayer (such as what the priests do on Good Friday, or at their ordination)? In imitation of the Magi, would you be willing to prostrate yourself in humble submission and total surrender to Christ?
Finally, we have the three gifts of the Magi: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These three gifts presented to the Lord show that the Magi acknowledged the Child as the Divine King who would die to save the world form sin. GOLD is for a king; FRANKINCENSE is a burnt offering to God, and MYRRH is used for one who would die, to anoint the body for burial. From this we see that their gifts are grounded in truths about who this Child is. If we are to adore Christ properly, we must also honor Him in this threefold way, as king, as an offering to God, and as anointed savior.
The Feast of the Epiphany is a celebration of a sacred, holy journey leading to Christ. Matthew includes the story in his Gospel to emphasize that salvation is available even for those outside of Israel’s ancient covenant relationship with God.
You and I here today know people who are searching for something. Some want to find a deeper meaning to their lives, some want to find the right career path, and others want to find freedom from whatever binds them or holds them down. By our won drawing near to Jesus on our spiritual journey, we can offer help to others searching for the Lord – not just quick or glib answers to their struggles, but companionship on the journey of discovering the love of God that gives meaning to everything.
Today four men will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation as part of their own spiritual journey. They – like we – are challenged to grow in their relationship with Jesus and our understanding of his kingdom. Like so much in life, their arrival now to receive the sacrament of the Holy Spirit will open a new path, a new journey for them in seeking out how to put their gifts to bring others to the Lord. May they be blessed in their own journey of faith.
This is also the challenge to the ministry of Reader/Lector in our parish – men and women who are called to exemplify in their lives the values and virtues of the WORD of God that they proclaim for us.
In our world surrounded as we are by so many scandals and stories of corruption, greed, jealousy, and disputes, we often overlook the many good stories of self-sacrifice, selflessness and self-giving that are all around us – often inspired by the story of the Star of Bethlehem.
And finally, today we will begin a new year with the Catholic custom celebrated at this time of Epiphany, the Blessing of the Home! It is in the home that we learn the true meaning of the gifts of the Magi. As we take the blessed packets today and gather our family this evening or some other evening and say the prayers and mark our homes with the symbols of this day (20+C+M+B+22), let us pray that we imitate the Magi in their life-long journey searching, seeking, and manifesting the Lord, even when we are not sure where the journey will lead us. May the Lord give us direction, keep us humble, and fill us with joy as we continue searching diligently.
Celebrant: My dear friends, the love of God reaches to the ends of the earth. As the three kings were led to the Saviour, let us approach the Lord and humbly bring our prayers to him.
READER: For our Bishop Stephen and all who lead the Church, that they will continue with faith and confidence to bring the message of the Gospel to all they meet, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the Lectors of our parish that they will be blessed today in their ministry to the Word. (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: [SMC only] For those who received the Sacrament of Confirmation today and for their families and friends who have guided them to this moment, Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For Christians throughout the world, that they will bring the light of Christ to their families and friends, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: And for the intentions we carry in our hearts, and for all those who have asked for our prayers and who we remember now in silence. (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: O God of hope and joy, listen to the prayers of your people who have gathered to celebrate your mighty love. We make all our prayers in the name of Mary’s Son, Jesus, who is Lord forever and ever. (all) AMEN.