Epiphany. The word means appearance or manifestation. In the ancient world, among the pagans, man was subject to the stars. Stars were not subject to man.
The stars could reveal things for man’s life. People believed the stars could reveal man’s future. The wise men studied the stars to know man’s future. And, here was this star appearing just to these wise men, and they thought it meant a king was about to be born for the Jews.
It should be no surprise the impact that Jesus’ star had on the three wise men. For the first time the star moved toward a man, Jesus, not man to the star. The star honored Jesus and pointed to him. It was not so strange that the Magi were moved, as experts regarding stars. Something very important was happening in the world, and the Magi did not understand that the epiphany of the star was the manifestation of God to man; and the part they themselves would play. Everything was about to change radically by the arrival of the Messiah and his star.
Our God reveals himself. Our God cannot remain silent, but makes Himself known to us. He had given prophecy about the coming of his Son, the Christ, the Messiah to the Israelites for centuries, such as in Isaiah.
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
And, He even revealed Himself and the birth of His son, Jesus, to non-Jews, to Gentiles, the “magi from the East”.
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.”
Herod wanted to know about this new king, as well, and he sent for the chief priests and the scribes. The Jewish priests knew exactly where the Messiah was to be born, but they didn’t know when. It was right there in their scriptures. The “magi” knew when, but they did not know where. Here was the scripture:
“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’.”
What is strange is that now the Jews knew when and where. They had the scriptures and the prophecies. Now they had the Magi knowledge of when. However, the priests in Jerusalem did not go to Bethlehem. Why not? Strangers, Gentiles, came to honor the Jewish prophecies, but the Jews did not go! Why not?
Perhaps the Jewish leaders and priests had become too much children of this world, and had grown indifferent to God. Gentiles were receiving God’s revelations, but the Jews ignored the revelations that they had already received.
It was this willful ignorance that Jesus would encounter in his ministry among the Jewish leaders. Here were a people who studied and taught scripture, but did not believe it. The Jewish leaders had become indifferent to their own scriptures.
This stubbornness of heart would be held against them. Herod would become jealous of the child Jesus and give orders for him to be killed. As a result, every child under two years old in the vicinity of Bethlehem would be slaughtered: the “Holy Innocents” who died for Jesus.
It was into this world that Jesus chose to be born, to live his life under the threat of death from his birth to his final arrest and crucifixion.
And, if we love Jesus and follow him, the world will hate us, also. We cannot become indifferent to God. Pope Francis is warning us not be become indifferent to God.
St. Paul tells us that he experienced God’s revelation and that it was for all men.
… 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.
That revelation, that epiphany changed Paul’s life forever. And we should allow Epiphany to change ours.