Epiphany - the meaning is pervasive

Tom Bartolomeo
Epiphany of the Lord C 2013
Isaiah 60: 1-6; Psalm 72;
Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2: 1-12
Reproduced with Permission

The original Epiphany of the three kings bearing gifts could readily have been excluded from the Christmas story, the birth of Christ, our commemoration and our personal exchange of gifts and the restart of human history, a change in calendars from before Christ ( B.C.) to after Christ (A.D.) - now 2013 years later. Everything else in the Christmas story would have been the same without the Magi, the stable, the manger-cradle, the angels and the shepherds rejoicing in the fields and Jesus, Mary and Joseph with this notable difference - Jesus, Mary and Joseph would not have had to flee for their lives into Egypt, and then later return -- not to Bethlehem, the ancestral birthplace of the Son of David, but settle in the obscure town of Nazareth where Jesus and family would presumably find some safety after the death of Herod senior while living in the shadow of his equally evil son, Herod the second, as long as Jesus remained anonymous.

The story of the Christ-Savior, as God chose, would still have unwound from a wood cradle to a crucifixion tree. Christ, the light of the world and author of life itself came to conquer the darkness by his death. The Magi came to enlighten us, to seek Him, too, not hide from God's law but defend his truth whatever danger we face as sojourners in this world. Each of our epiphanies will be linked to the Magi's dangerous journey, believe me. So many Catholics, however, follow different stars as if God would intentionally confuse other travelers in their search for salvation in Jesus, some who, remarkably, may have been 'inconvenienced' to honor his 'Mother's Day' Mass on New Year's Day. Not an auspicious beginning of this "Year of Faith" and not a time to receive Communion in this Mass or other Masses without, first, apologizing to Mary's Son in the confessional.

For the majority of Catholics, most of whom are not here, you and I must be their Epiphany, the light that guides them, which perhaps may blind them momentarily, in the brilliance of the your expression of love . . . for your children in many cases. You may have to make the extraordinary effort - not necessarily traveling great distances but some effort -- perhaps, an invitation to breakfast or lunch after mass, which may speak more eloquently than words of chastisement, and a bloodless martyrdom in prayers and penance which still does not compare to the blood-red martyrdom of so many innocent children in Bethlehem whose lives were sacrificed after the Magi had made known the birth of the promised Messiah-King.

Of course, the entire matter can be ignored and end in passing pleasantries later at the church doors, "Good Morning, Father" or "Have a good day, Father" while

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere.
The ceremony of innocence is drowned,
[as a poet once put it]
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand.
("The Second Coming", W.B. Yeats.)

Should I be inconvenienced? What light can I bring to this dark world? Next Thursday the Illinois State Senate will take up passage of the "Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act" which would provide same-sex couples advocacy rights under the law in all public and private services and transactions in our state. The bill has already passed the General Assembly and is supported by Governor Quinn and President Obama. According to the Thomas More Society Law Firm this legislation would replace and expand the current civil union law for same-sex couples and would require same-sex education classes in public and private and Catholic schools. It would be enforceable as a civil right in all aspects of society, marriage in our churches, religious education, use of Knights of Columbus rental halls, food catering establishments, wedding photographers, home based businesses etc., etc. While there is still time I urge you to contact your state senator and the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Illinois State Senate that they oppose this misleading "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act".

Christmas also celebrates, we should know, that Jesus was born to carry a cross, his "witness to the truth" which he affirmed at his trial before his crucifixion. We, too, were born to bear a cross to be saved. "Unless you take up your cross and follow me," Jesus told us,"we can not be his disciple[s], Mark 8, 34. "Ashamed" of Christ's teaching? Unwilling to upset others? "Whoever denies me before others", Jesus said, "I also will deny [him] before my Father in heaven," Matthew 10:33.

Like the priest, Timothy, obedient to his bishop, the Apostle Paul, I am commanded to "Preach the Word, in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking or advising, always with patience and providing instruction. For the time is coming", the Apostle told Timothy, "when people will no longer endure sound doctrine but following their passions they will surround themselves with teachers [ politicians] to please their itching ears. And they will abandon the faith to hear fables", 2 Timothy 4, 2-4.

Perhaps, we should call it an "awakening" instead an "epiphany." In the poem I recited earlier - the poet described our time as a time of terror foreshadowed in the figure of a crouching lion with a human face carved in an enormous rock in the desert of ancient Egypt near the great pyramids - which, he said, awoke after

. . . twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
[ the manger of the child Jesus]
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Don't we know that the Magi, the three wise men, came to instruct us about this?