Monday, 27 December 2010

The Epiphany of the Lord - Year A

Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3.5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

At the heart of the Gospel today is that wonderful moment when: going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage.

Imaginations have exercised themselves over this line for many centuries; it is a moment of tenderness and worship, of fulfilment and release. And yet, for the wise men, and for us, it is also the beginning of a new journey, guided by the light of an equally delightful star, the light of faith, drawing us to the hill of Golgotha.

Matthew has already told us much about this child. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. His name is Jesus and he has come to save his people from their sins. He is Immanuel, God-with-us. He is son of David.

The wise men kneel before him and pay homage to the one they call ‘the infant King of the Jews’. They have travelled from afar to find him and their reward is that now he has found them; the infant King has three new subjects.

The infant King must become known; he must take possession of his kingdom. No one hides a light under a bushel and neither does God. No, a light is placed on a lamp stand. This is really what we celebrate in the feast of the Epiphany. God wants his Son to be known by the whole world and so our first reading exultantly announces to Jerusalem: your light has come … the glory of the Lord is rising on you.

Jesus is the light, the light of the world. The language is what we call analogical. Of course we all know Jesus does not actually ‘shine’, like a light would shine in a dark room, but in our attempt to grasp the reality, the truth of who Jesus is, we have recourse to analogy. Jesus is the light which, like the dawn, pushes back the darkness of sin and ignorance. And like the dawn, his light will be available to all nations, no one is denied. Only those who hide from the light will remain in darkness.

We can only wonder how much the wise men understood about the child in Mary’s arms. Would they have understood that the ‘infant King of the Jews’ was also the ‘Light of the world’? I wonder. Let us at least, today, and in our moments of quiet prayer, approach this child and confess our faith and say, ‘Little Jesus, I believe that you are indeed the Light of the World, and the Light of my life.’

Another beautiful title we use of Jesus analogically is: Word of God. This can be confusing for some until we grasp the several different ways in which this expression can be used.

John the Evangelist opens his Gospel with the words:

In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. (Jn 1:1)

Pope Benedict wrote recently in his exhortation Verbum Domini, ‘The Father eternally utters his Word in the Holy Spirit.’ This is the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, a communion of love in which the Father eternally begets the Word in the Holy Spirit.

And it is this Word of the Father, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, through which he created everything that is. This is why, to a very real though limited extent, we can ‘discover’ God in creation; his Word made it and holds it in existence. Consequently, since God’s Word is the foundation of all reality, we can only understand ourselves and the world in the light of his Word.

We use the expression ‘word of God’ also of the words spoken throughout salvation history by the prophets. This is the same word of God spoken by the Apostles and by the Church today in her living Tradition.

Hand in hand with Tradition the word of God is heard in the inspired writings of Sacred Scripture, both the Old and the New Testaments and, as Pope Benedict points out, this shows that ‘the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”: Christianity is the “religion of the word of God” '.

Finally we come to the final revelation of the word of God, which the evangelist John renders simply: …and the Word became flesh. (Jn 1:14).

Through the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God became man!

I give the last word to Pope Benedict: ‘Now the word is not simply audible; not only does it have a voice, now the word has a face, one which we can see: that of Jesus of Nazareth.’

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