Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Somewhere, in a rectory somewhere, a priest has begun to prepare his Sunday homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany by looking up the etymology of the word, "Epiphany". It is a good way to begin some speeches, talks, lessons, and homilies. Just what does this word mean in its root meaning? He discovers that the meaning is from the Greek preposition "epi" and the Greek verb "phainein". "Epi" means "to", "against", "outward direction"; and "phainein" means to "reveal", "manifest", "show".
Our First Reading reinforces this meaning of Epiphany: Jesus is revealed to the world in His divinity and majesty, "upon you [Jerusalem] the Lord Shines, and over you appears his glory" (Isaiah).
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us the post-Resurrection faith of the Church that the revelation of Jesus is universal, not just to the people of the Covenant. Paul states it clearly, than in contrast with older revelation, "it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
This is the symbolism of universality is that most often associated with this celebration: the "magi" coming from far in the east, coming to acknowledge and reverence the child whose star has guided them over the route to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Not Jewish, not Semitic, not even "religious" in our traditional deist meaning perhaps, but scientists, star-gazers, astrologers, numerologists, natural philosophers, and spiritualists.
Jesus calls everyone to himself; he reveals himself to all people. He receives and welcomes all people.
What was symbolized by the Magi’s gift-bearing to Bethlehem, is made explicit in the preaching of St. Paul to the Gentiles.
Can you and I keep this meaning of the Epiphany of Jesus alive in our hearts? Can we, who have been baptized into Christ, radiate the mission of Christ to the world around us? Can we see in Hanukkah and Kwanzaa the drama of Isaiah and the preaching of Ephesians? Can we sense in the charitable works of Ramadan the yearning for purification and direction that are the Mission of Jesus?
Epiphany is a call to Christians to open wide their hearts and their minds to the universal mission of Jesus, the Savior.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.