An epiphanic experience
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
Some days ago I had the joy and, most of all, the privilege of being invited into a radio programme which centred on the liturgy of God’s Word for that Sunday. In fact, on that Sunday we celebrated the solemnity of epiphany of Our Lord. In other words, the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the gentiles as represented in the persons of the
“wise men from the East” (Matt 2:1).
The reading of the solemnity was taken from Matthew 2:1-12. As the reader started reading it I was completed touched by some of its subtleties which say a lot about our everyday living. Firstly, the wise men said: “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Matt 2:2). These wise men or the Magi, the term Matthew uses in this gospel pericope, which some interpret as “astrologers”, followed a star, something which they were familiar with. It was this star which led them to the Star, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. What star am I following? Am I prisoner of the horoscope? If yes do I not realize that the horoscope is taking away my God-given faculty of shaping my own future through the decisions I daily take?
Secondly, the Matthean text also says that upon hearing that the king of the Jews has been born King Herod “was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (2:3). Driven by fear he assembled “all the chief priests and scribes of the people” (2:4) to ascertain himself “where the Christ was to be born” (2:4). And, later on, he spoke to “the wise men secretly” (2:7) to be double sure that a new king was born. His certainty increased his insecurity and fear. The slaughter of the innocents we read about in Matthew 2:13-18 utterly unravel how Herod,
whose name means “song of the hero”, used “consultation” not to seek the common good but simply to carry out his murderous agenda. If I am entrusted with power am I using it to become more powerful? Or as a way of truly promoting the common good of the people I was chosen to serve? Is not the process of honest consultation or the lack of it the decisive criterion which makes credible or discredit my calling to serve?
A further point which really helped me appreciate this gospel passage was the reaction of the Magi when they saw the star. The text says that “when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (2:10). They could rejoice enormously because theirs was an
honest search for the truth. Do I really search for truth with an open mind and heart? Do I sincerely reflect on what I read and experience in life so that I can find a relevant meaning for my existence? Or else, because the prospect of truth challenges my comfort zone, I resist any “star” which can lead me to the saving truth that will eventually give me the peace I am continously craving for? What prejudices do I need to eliminate in order to live freely?
Finally, the Magi were “warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way” (2:12). Am I courageous enough to let God surprise me? Or do I make my life and of those around me hell because I completely depend on my fallible
calculations? Am I truly adventurous to the point of letting myself be led to my real self by another way? The way which emanates from the Star, the Ruler of everyone and everything?
After five phone-ins my conclusion in this radio programme was that it is of no use to memorize the Bible by chapter and verse if I do not love God and my neighbor as myself. The Pharisees too knew the Bible by heart. But they were miles away from the Lord because their heart was closed to the Star of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ! As St Leo said, only faith and good works will make us shine as children of the light. What an epiphanic experience!