NOW is the only time we have
January 5, 2003

Al Cariño
The Epiphany
Reproduced with Permission

Some time ago, I came across a Russian legend about an old grandmother who was invited to meet the royal Child who was just born in Bethlehem. The old woman was about to retire for the night when shepherds knocked at her door. They shared with her the good news that the long Awaited Child has now been born and begged her to come and give what helped she could. She was a good-hearted woman, but the warmth of her bed looked more appealing than a cold journey on a winter's night. So she told them that she would go the following day. When asked to give them food that they could take in her stead, she answered, "Tomorrow."

When dawn came, the old lady, true to her promise, prepared a basket with goods and gifts. But when she arrived to give her gifts, the Child had already left. She was angry with herself for not heeding the shepherds' invitation the night before. She then began to wander around the world looking for the Christ-child. She joined the legions of wanderers down history to search for the one who would bring new hope and new meaning into their lives. She found children everywhere and gave gifts to everyone in the hope that that child was the Christ-child. But she was never sure.

Today, we are celebrating the feast of the Epiphany, popularly known as the Feast of the Three Kings. The three were really astrologers but they were considered as "wise men" among their people (Mt. 2:1-12). The Greek word epiphany means manifestation. Through the story of the visit of the Wise Men from the East, Matthew wants to teach us that God's plan of salvation was not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles, for all humanity. This event was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah as found in the first reading (Isa. 60:1-6): "See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." Matthew also tells us that on their arrival in Jerusalem, the Wise Men inquired where the newborn King of the Jews was. This made King Herod nervous. This was further reinforced when he asked the chief priests and the scribes where this King was to be born, and was told, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet." Herod allowed the Wise Men to proceed on condition that they returned to him so that he, too, would pay Him homage. But when they failed to return after paying homage to Jesus and giving Him their gifts, Herod, concluded that the Child was a threat to his kingship. So he ordered the massacre of the children of Bethlehem, two years old and under -- the "Holy Innocents."

According to spiritual writers, the gifts of the Wise Men underscore Jesus' identity both as God and man. Incense points to His being God; myrrh, to his being human; and gold, to his being King.

When the Wise Men left their gifts with the Christ-child, they took away a treasure that surpassed anything they themselves brought. They were not only enriched beyond imagination by their encounter with the Child but also took with them the gift of knowing who Jesus was -- the Son of God manifested to the Gentiles. Tradition has it that when they returned to their home country, they told people on the way and in their own country about the Infant "in the manger" and enriched others with the truth of their own experience. Thus even if they did not yet know Christ's teachings, they had laid the groundwork in their own country for the person of Jesus. They had became "missionaries." Thus when early Christian missionaries went to the East, they were surprised to know that many people had already heard about the Infant Jesus. They were thus open to the preaching of the missionaries and many were eventually baptized.

By our baptism, we have received Christ, the Light. Just as the star led the Wise Men from the East to the Infant King and later proclaimed to their people as the Light of the world, we should do likewise with the Light of Christ we have received through baptism. Enriched by the sacraments, specially the Eucharist which is our spiritual nourishment and through which Jesus resides in our hearts, we have to make this Light disperse the dark areas in our lives. We also have to show our love and concern for Jesus by radiating this Light all around us through what we say and do so that others, too, will embrace the Light and in turn, pass it on to others.

When are we going to do this? Not tomorrow as the old lady in our story did. For tomorrow is still to come and is beyond our control while yesterday is gone forever. Now is the only time we have and under our control. Thus now is our time to accept Jesus as our Light and radiate Him to others. Then, unlike the old lady, we will not suffer any future regrets.