This great solemnity of the Epiphany evokes the majesty, glory, and power of the One come from heaven to live among us for our salvation: a majesty testified to by the Father Himself speaking from heaven at His baptism in the Jordan; a glory manifested and confirmed again by the voice of the Father at His Transfiguration on the mount; a super-abundant power and saving compassion displayed at the wedding feast of Cana where He changed water into rich and copious new wine. These signs of His majesty and glory, power and compassion, give us unshakeable confidence that what He has promised – freedom from the power of sin and death here on earth, and the hope of eternal salvation in and with Him in heaven -- He can and will fulfil in and for His Church, in and for you and me gathered here in His Church today to praise His most Holy Name.
As you heard in the Gospel reading, this humble Lord of majesty, glory, and power, is the One to Whom the heavens themselves, nature’s primeval powers, gave obedient witness by means of a guiding star that disclosed His very birth- place; the One Whom Israel’s inspired prophets and ancient scriptures had long foretold would come; the One recognized and worshipped this very day in Bethlehem of Judea by Magi from the East and first-fruits of the Gentiles, as King of the Jews, Prophet, and Priest. Yes, indeed, People of God, we join with the mystic potential of creation itself, with our ancient fathers and forebears in faith, and with all those who, through the ages, have been and are humbly searching for God in accordance with their possibilities; and on the supremely solid basis of such a privilege, we have very, very good reason to rejoice on this day.
Our Blessed Saviour, however, does not clasp this glory to Himself exclusively, as we are invited and solicitously encouraged to understand from our first reading:
Rise up in splendour, Mother Church! 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.
In these days of scandals, contradiction, and rejection, we must never forget the truth of Isaiah’s prophecy, for Mother Church is, even today, supremely privileged as the Spouse of Christ. All nations of the world can walk surely by the light of her teaching, and the shining radiance of her saints is inspiration for all those called to share with Jesus His victory over the sin of the world and give glory to God in the highest.
Let us consider those prophetic words a little more closely:
Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.
Mother Church can, and does, enrich the world with her proclamation of the truth; nevertheless, besides the light of Mother Church’s teaching, the shining radiance of her people’s lives is required that the nations may be brought to walk humbly yet confidently along the way of the Lord. That means, that all of us -- each and every ordinary member of the Church -- has an essential role to play in enabling her to fulfil the commission given her by the Lord Jesus to continue in our world of today the work of evangelization and salvation that He started by His own life, death, and resurrection. How can we rise to such a calling?
Jesus once told a Samaritan woman asking Him for the water of life (John 4:22s.):
You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews.
The world around us manifests far greater ignorance than did the Samaritans of old concerning whom Jesus thus plainly spoke; for, worshipping above all money and power, ever-seeking pleasure and plenty, they aspire to nothing better than self-satisfaction and popular esteem; and to this day are found rejecting and mocking that salvation coming from the Jews who believe in Jesus and live by His Spirit, as St. Paul teaches:
One is not a Jew outwardly. True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. Rather, one is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter. We are the (true) circumcision, we who worship through the Spirit of God, who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in flesh. (Romans 2:28s.; Philippians 3:3)
But let us not truncate Jesus’ words for, having denied the world’s gospel and exposed its false gods, He went on to tell the Samaritan woman and ourselves how we can show forth the shining radiance of Mother Church:
The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
And that, People of God, is the only worthy programme we can set for ourselves as disciples of Jesus in the world of today, to worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; that is, to worship the Father in the power of the Spirit given us in Jesus’ Sacraments and by personal and loving response to the Truth made known to us in the Good News of Jesus: handed-down, proclaimed, and proferred to all men and women of good-will throughout the ages by Mother Church.
For – have no doubt about it -- the Good News of Jesus is God’s word, a word that does not return empty to God:
The word that goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
That means, that if we hear and embrace the truth of Jesus’ Good News in humble sincerity, seeking to understand, love, and serve Jesus and Him Who sent Him, then that Word, that Truth, will achieve the end for which it has been sent and passed down to us and will set the Spirit at work in us: the Spirit of prayer Who supplies for our inability to pray at times; the Spirit of power Who enables us to resist all assaults of Satan and do what is beyond our natural powers; the Spirit of Love Who -- healing our sinfulness -- transfigures our weakness into the glory of the children of God. That, People of God, is the programme we are invited to embrace today, to serve God with all sincerity -- as the prophet proclaimed:
True worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
As then you seek, in all sincerity, to read in private and hear in Church the Word of God, let the star that God’s unfailing Word will most certainly cause to rise within you -- usually without you even noticing it at first -- shine before you as you try to follow it as did the Magi of old; let it lead you to worship Jesus as the Father expects of you personally. In that way Jesus will become a great joy for you; and, as you give your gifts to Him you will thereby begin to find your true selves, each one being formed in Jesus as a personal gift for the Father by the Spirit of Jesus.
Having found Jesus and worshipped Him in Spirit and in Truth, the Magi did not find it hard to leave without meeting Herod again. There was, indeed, much splendour in his palace, many gifts were awaiting them on his tables, and flattery a-plenty from his own lips and those of his courtiers, but what was all that in comparison with the peace, joy, and fulfilment, they had just experienced in the cave and at the crib in Bethlehem? Could those who had been so privileged there as to hear or hear of the angels’ chorus, ever want to hear again, let alone be seduced by, the siren music of Herod’s dancers and the lascivious pleasures of cushions and wine.
For all who, in spirit, have made the Magi’s trip to Bethlehem and have begun to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, these words of St. Paul express all:
Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13s.)