Feast of Epiphany: "Walking in the Light"
Today is the Feast of Epiphany. Epiphany means a manifestation, a revelation, and letting something hidden before be known and seen. The Incarnation, Christmas, was God revealing Himself to man in flesh and blood; but even if we see it with our eyes, we will miss Him if we don’t know how to see beyond appearances and interpret His epiphany, His revelation. Looking at a baby, he would look like an ordinary one if we didn’t have a previous revelation of who He is. Sadly, this is what happened to the King of the chosen people of God, wherein the people of the capital of God’s nation Israel, Jerusalem, were disturbed by the good news of great joy. On the other hand, the Magi, who were pagan, and the shepherds, the lowliest class in the society, rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. What irony this is!
Do we see in a baby a Savior? Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “Some say that You are John the Baptist, some say Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. The Pharisees said that You were Beelzebub.” But Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am? Do you see Me, the simple carpenter, as the Son of God?”
The chief priests and scribes knew about the Messiah. When asked by Herod, they answered, “We know where the Messiah will be born.” They quoted Scriptures; they knew and they had head knowledge, but they did not act on their knowledge. Wisdom is the correct application of knowledge. In fact, if you have knowledge and you don’t apply it correctly, this is actually foolishness. If you had information, great news of great joy, but you don’t act on it, this is the height of foolishness. If God reveals something to us, we should respond to Him by faith and by joy.
The Magi found Jesus and worshipped Him after they were led by the star. Matthew, in his gospel, said that the Magi returned a different way than when they went to Jesus. This is telling us something. When we have real encounter with Jesus, we will never be the same again. I called for prayer and fasting for our Church because we tend to forget that every time we spend time with Jesus, and we receive it right, we will become a different person. We would have grown; we would have gotten something out of our encounter with Him.
Every Sunday and every time we come to the Table, it is meant for us to never to be the same again because we had a communion with Jesus and we again ingest His body and blood. We should be transformed because the reason that we do it often is to nurture the relationship that we had in our first encounter with Him. We continuously come to Him so that we more and more grow and mature in Him and more and more be like Him. Then, we will want others to have a true encounter with Him as well because Jesus is in them. He is in the oppressed, in the widow, in the sick, and we minister to these people that they may encounter Jesus. May these experiences change us like it did the Magi.
At the Wedding at Cana, it was the first of the signs that Jesus performed to His disciples. In John 2:11, John said that Jesus manifested His glory. The Greek word for manifested is epiphaneo. Jesus revealed Himself and the disciples believed. This is the proper response to God’s revelation to us. We will have our faith built up and we will see with our spiritual eyes. There is always more than meets the eye. There is always more than the spectacular. We need to learn to see God in all things. We need to pay attention to the small things. We don’t despise small things but pay attention to them because God speaks to us in everything. God speaks to us through the reading of Scriptures either out of the pulpit or in our private time. God speaks through the liturgy, through the Eucharist, through people we encounter daily, through our situations – good or bad. God is saying something to us and we need to pay attention because He reveals Himself to us as He is everywhere so that as we see Him, we change from glory to glory.
When Jesus Christ was on the cross, who rejoiced over it? We need to see with the eyes of faith at what happened, otherwise, we will miss the victory and the glory of God. People may have seen Him as one of the thieves, going through a process of being sentenced and proven guilty, but we need to see the revelation of God to see what always has been there.
The glory of Jesus has always been there even before He was born. When He was born, as a baby, the glory of God was there. In the Transfiguration, it wasn’t that in a few seconds, God granted Him radiance and glory. No, God granted the disciples eyes to see the eternal glory that has always been there. The glory of God has always been there even in the worst of times. Even in a cruel execution of a “criminal” the glory of God was there. In the worst of our own situations, God is there. If we have any anxiety, stress, or fear at this time, God is in the midst of it. If we have good news, God is right here with us also. God promised that He would always be with us everywhere – through thick and thin, through our ups and downs.
The simple message of Epiphany is: God reveals; we believe. The Magi were wise men, wise because they acted on the knowledge that was revealed to them, and this was a great cause of rejoicing. Again, the irony of Epiphany is that the pagan people rejoiced at the good news, and all of Jerusalem, the people of God, was disturbed. Why should we be disturbed by good news? Disturb in other translations meant tense, upset, disappointed, anxious, distressed and unsettled.
Cathedral of the King, we need to learn from this. Listen to what the Spirit is saying. God visits us. We have more than 10,000 reasons to rejoice with exceedingly great joy. The church building that is rising up is God revealing Himself to us. What has it done to our hearts? Did it disturb us? Did it make us tense? Are we disturbed or stressed? No! We should be thankful, jumping, excited and rejoicing with exceedingly great joy. For almost forty years, we waited for this, and now that it is here, isn’t this a cause for great joy? It is a gift, a blessing from God! If anything, we need to rejoice about it and thank God for it. We need to be humbled that God chose us, at such a time like this, that we would start this building and hopefully, we finish it soon! What will finish this? God reveals, and we believe! Not only this building but many other things that God wants us to accomplish – that which concerns us. We act on our belief and we rejoice because what comes from God is good. All good things come from God, the Father of lights.
The Magi gave Jesus three gifts which indicated His kingship, His divinity and His suffering and death. They were wise! There was gold because they acknowledged Him as the king. Incense because He is God, and myrrh, oil used for burial. The Magi knew Jesus was King, God, and that He would give His life. Jesus reveals God the Father. Not only this, He also reveals who we are. He reveals the Father because He Himself is the exact representation of the Father, and He only does what He sees the Father is doing. Jesus said to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Jesus is not only 100% God, but also 100% man, so He reveals to us who we are. Jesus reveals to us what it is to be human, and how to live as human beings. Our identity is in Jesus. Our worth is in Him. When we see Him, we understand how it is, what it is to be human.
Find our identity in Jesus. Don’t let pop culture or MTVs or popular bands and artists define who we are. They are not our image. Jesus is our image because He is 100% man and He was made like you and I except that He did not sin. This tells us that we, as human beings, can overcome like He did. We can because He was made like us. What we experience, He experienced. He was victorious over all of them. We, like Him, are to reign like kings, and have victory over our enemies. What are our enemies? The deeds of the flesh. We can overcome our envying, our drunkenness, our carousing, our outburst of anger, and the hatred in our hearts. We can overcome strife and dissension because Jesus did it as a human being and we can do it.
We should not let the modern culture define who we are. When God asked Adam why he was hiding in the Garden, and Adam said that it was because he was naked, God told him, “Who told you that you were naked? Who told you that something was wrong with My creation?” Who told people that it is okay to have an affair if they are married? Who told them to steal, to lie, to cheat or to be immoral? God says, “Look at Jesus. This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him because He is what you are supposed to be!”
None of these other things that we put our trust in define who we are – our position, our possession, not even our ammunitions and anything that we put our confidence in. It is only in Jesus that we find our identity.
The three gifts of the Magi also symbolize the life of a Christian. Gold because we are kings and rulers over our enemies, and we don’t have to be defeated. Our lives should be incense offered up to God - not going sideways to compromise to other idols, but like a thurible, ever-burning and giving a sweet smelling aroma rising up to God. Our thoughts, our motivations, our desires, even our faith, hope, trust, and love all rise up to God as living sacrifices. As myrrh, we are to die with Christ, in Him, and to offer our lives like He did because greater love has no one like to offer one’s life.
The Magi asked Herod, “Where is He who was born king of the Jews?” What if the modern Magi asked us today, “Where is He that we may worship Him? Where is He who was born King of the Jews?” How would be answer this? Would we be able to point them to Him? Technically, Jesus is everywhere. Firstly, the universe is in the hands of God. He contains everything. In Him we live, we exist and all things exist. Second, Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father. Where is this? It is everywhere! Third, Jesus is in the poor, in the suffering, in the oppressed, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the prisoners and the sick. We need to see Him manifested in these people. Fourth, Jesus is also in the midst of two or three gathered together in His Name. He is the Church – no matter how imperfect or how we make a mess out of His blessings – He is still promised to be with us. He still betrothed us. The beauty of it all is that He causes all things, even our mess, to work together for good. It is not so that we can abuse these, but because we have the consolation that in God, we are in good hands.
Fifth, we see God in the communion elements. Sixth, God manifests Himself through us because He is also in us. This is one message of Epiphany. He is in our hearts. The Christmas hymn says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” What is occupying our hearts today? Are there lots of things occupying our hearts that it is so full that we don’t have room for Jesus to come in? Let Jesus come in so that we can manifest Him. I have told you before that we need another EDSA Revolution (Epifanio Delos Santos) – an Epiphany of the Saints. There should be a manifestation of the saints. 2Thessalonians 1 says, “Jesus will come to be glorified in His saints, and marveled at among all who have believed.” We need to manifest His glory. Ephesians says that the manifold wisdom of God will be made known through His Church – through you and I – so that people may see His glory come down.
When people asks us, “Where is He?” may we be able to say, “Look at us and see Jesus. He who has seen us has seen Jesus.” Isaiah says, “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Some translations say, “Nations will stream to your light.” Streaming means continuous and like the wi-fi, we should be good service providers so that the streaming will be efficient and we will be radiant.
This reflects our Church’s mission statement that we will know God, and we will make Him known. We will see Him and we will be radiant as we make Him known. This is our calling. We are all proclaimers of the good news! Let ourselves point to others who Jesus is. Let ourselves be able to answer the questions, “Where is He?” or fulfill the request of people when they say, “We want to see Jesus.” This is our mission. This is our calling. This is our way of life, and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God!