Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
With the Feast of the Epiphany we have almost reached the end of the Christmas season which concludes tomorrow with the Baptism of the Lord.  The three wise men, after a detour to Jerusalem have finally reached their goal.  How do we know they are men?  If they were women they would have asked for directions right at the start, arrived at Bethlehem on time, brought a casserole, made clothes for the baby, cleaned up the barn and . . . there would be peace on earth!  At least that is what a lady once told me.

So often we get to this Feast and we are just tired. There was such a build up to Christmas, it seems like it starts in late October.  We had the holiday parties, the trips to celebrate with family and friends, somehow we got through New Years and now we are ready to put away all the Christmas decorations and catch our breath.  Because we are so familiar with the story of the three wise men we just sort of let it pass over us.  It has all become too familiar, too ordinary.  But Epiphany is meant to remind us to look for the extraordinary inside of the ordinary, to see divinity shimmering inside of humanity, to see God in an ordinary baby.  Epiphany literally means manifestation, when God was made present to the world.  Our challenge is to make this not a story about a past wonder, something that happened long ago but rather a story of a future promise.  Because Epiphanies, manifestations, continue to happen if we look for them.  And our Gospel tells us what we need for an Epiphany:  wise men, a star, and a gift.

Wise men.  Who were these wise men?  They were astrologers, searchers of the heavens, people looking beyond their own world, people willing to go somewhere and not even know where.  We tend to think of them as people seeking God but the fact is God sent the star to them, God sought them, sought to bring them to Himself.  And He seeks us, asks us to search for Him.  Wise people look for God in the ordinary, the little, the small, the familiar.  In little babies and homeless people.  In neighbors and gate guards.  May God make us wise.

You need a star.  In the Gospel story the star lets us know that this is an event of cosmic importance, something that was much bigger than Israel, something that stretched to the ends of the earth.  You need a star that flashes across the horizon and catches your attention.  God still sends those stars across our horizons.  It could be anything or anyone that grabs our attention away from our everyday life.  Something or someone that lights up the darkness of our night, even in the middle of the day.  Something or someone that makes us look up and see the divine in the ordinary.  May God help us to look for stars.

Gifts, you have to have a gift.  Think about the gifts the Magi brought; gold, frankincense, myrrh.  A wealth of meaning in these three gifts.  Gold was meant for kings, not common people.  And in Bethlehem it was for the King of kings.  Frankincense is incense and it was always used as a symbol of our prayers, ourselves, rising up to God.  And this child was to raise us, bring us to God like no one else ever had.  And myrrh, an ointment used for burial, to anoint a corpse.  That signaled that this child was to suffer and die.  Why are gifts important?  Because gifts represent adoration.  They are given as a form of adoration, of saying how special someone is to us.  Like the Magi we journey here to Mass every week to give the gift of ourselves, bread and wine, work of our hands, fruit of the vine, our labor and pleasure, our aches and our joys.  In adoration we bow down, bend our knees and offer these gifts, offer ourselves and again, God comes to earth on this altar and becomes Emmanuel, God-with-us, Jesus.  May God make us worthy gifts.

It takes wise men and women to see the divine in the ordinary, to see Christ in ordinary bread and wine.  May God give us the Wisdom to look for Epiphanies in our lives!