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)
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.
“The sight of the star filled them with delight!
Our majestic feast of the Epiphany, or the “manifestation,” of “the newborn King of the Jews,” [Isa. 2:2] to the magi, learned sages from Babylon, began historically as a day when the eastern part of the Catholic Church celebrated the Incarnation. Gradually, this feast became more popular in the West which already was celebrating Christmas at the time of the winter solstice of December 25th, so the Eastern celebration of the Incarnation became known as EPIPHANY. In the Middle Ages, it was called the Twelfth Night – the feast of “the three kings” known by tradition as Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, these wise men from the East who we hear about in today’s Gospel who journeyed to meet the Christ.
The theological foundation of the Epiphany is to show that Jesus is savior not only of the people of Israel, but also for everyone, in every land and in every culture for all time. The message, power and love of Christ are for everyone. It is a message that is played out in the juxtaposition of light and darkness.
The excerpt of our first reading, from Third-Isaiah, uses the theme of darkness to refer to the gloom of the Israelites in exile, and light is the promise of restoration. He also expresses the hope of the pilgrimage of the nations to the one God of Israel. The author of Ephesians, who had earlier spoken of Christ breaking down the wall of enmity between Jew and Gentile [Eph 2:14], now speaks to both groups as “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel” [Eph. 3:6]. Finally, Matthew’s principle focus is the universal benefits of the Messiah’s advent. The visit of Gentiles (nations) at the birth anchors an arch over the whole Gospel, which ends with the risen Christ commissioning his disciples to make disciples of “all nations.”
My dear friends, on this feast of the manifestation of God in the Child Jesus, we celebrate the light that has come to lead us all out of darkness. It is the glory of God that shine through the readings today. The Gospel reminds us that this mystery was made known through a star, a wondrous phenomenon in the heavens, a light that pointed the way through the darkness – at least for some. Was the star only seen by a few shepherds and these wise men? Or might others have seen it, marveled at its brilliance, and then simply resumed the routine of their daily lives? Many wondrous stories and myths have developed over the centuries about those “who saw the star, but turned away.” Is the manifestation of God reserved for only a select few? Who was or needs to be illumined? Who was or is called out of darkness? For whom was or is the good news of Bethlehem meant?
Another important theme for this feast is that of journey. Some of the custom of placing the Magi at a distance from the center of the crèche and gradually move them day by day closer. It imagines a journey. The image of the life of faith as a journey is one of the most popular in all of Scripture. The image we celebrate today is that of the journey of three Wise Men. But it is a very particular kind of journey they make, one which serves as an image of the life of faith we all share. It is a SEARCH.
Unlike any other journey, to set out on a search means to leave behind something that is known and familiar, one’s own needs, one’s own longings, one’s own hopes, starting out from a world that is measurable and clear and obvious, moving into a world that is infinite, and anything but obvious, moving into a presence of God, in order to have those needs fulfilled, those hopes realized.
A search is never planned. Certainly, a searcher should be prudent, should prepare for whatever can be foreseen. But an honest searcher must be willing to be surprised, must surrender the right to determine their new experience in every detail. That is what makes it a search. The Magi came with questions, not with answers. They didn’t know what they would find, how it would feel, what it would be. They had expectations, certainly, but not demands. They expected to find a king. Had they demanded that a king be found in a castle, their search would have been fruitless.
So it must be for the believer. Those who are unwilling to be surprised, even disturbed by God, will likely miss God. Those who seek to move into God’s presence, but only on their own terms, those who claim the right to define what God must be like, where God should be found, how it should feel to be in God’s presence, those are not searchers. That, after all, is what we call idolatry – to build god, not to seek God out.
An honest searcher must be marked by a powerful trust. “What we will find, that we will become, will be good.” And we mark our doorways traditionally at this time of year to help other SEARCHERS to know we have found the Christ. God uses our own faith to “turn on the light” for others who are searching.
In the lives of each of us, the birth of Christ has set in motion something very powerful, something very sacred. We don’t know exactly what will lie at the end of the motion, at the end of our journey. But we have the Magi to follow. We will seek it out – and we will discover, find God.
Celebrant: Gathered at this Mass, we share a living tradition, a glorious promise, for the light of Christ continues to shine for all peoples. Let us pray for men and women of all languages, races and cultures.
READER: For the holy Catholic Church, that she continue to welcome into her fold all who seek peace and truth, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the nations of a world often in darkness, that their leaders may be drawn to the dawning brightness of Jesus Christ, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For those who exercise the Ministry of Lector in our community that today, as the receive their commission, they continue to bring their gifts to our community through reading the Word of God, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For a universal charity, that all bigotry, narrowness and racism may be driven from our hearts, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For a spirit of humble worship in our own lives, that we may adore Jesus in the Eucharist with the devotion of the Magi who brought gifts, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For our dear ones who have passed away, that they may receive their heavenly reward, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Majesty of the Father, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Almighty God and Father, your Son is “light from light,” your glowing sign to the nations. As we pray for the peoples of your world, help us to strengthen the bonds of unity, through Christ, our Lord. (all) AMEN.