Epiphany of the Lord
Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6
The Gift of God’s Love Made Manifest
Today we celebrate the "manifestation" of God’s Love in the person of Jesus, the newborn Savior. The earliest recipients of that manifestation were the simple shepherds, then the elder Simeon and the 84 year old widow Anna. In today’s Gospel Matthew recounts the star-lit manifestation to the magi, whom we’ve come to call the kings or the wise men — noted as well for the special (and pricey!) gifts they brought Jesus and the Holy Family: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Our practice of Christmas gift-giving derives from the action of these "wise men" of times past. Gifts can be practical, necessary, creative, simple, pricey, even fun – but the significance of the gifts is found in the personal meaning they bear.
Years ago I came across a short story by the American author, O. Henry, called "The Gift of the Magi". The story features a young married couple who were very poor but deeply in love. The wife had long, beautiful, dark hair. For Christmas her husband wanted to get her a set of expensive decorative combs to wear in her hair, and despite their poverty he was determined to get that gift for her. The husband treasured a gold pocket watch handed down from his grandfather. The wife found an elegant (and expensive) watch chain, and despite their poverty she was determined to get that gift for him. Come Christmas eve, they both had bought their special gifts for the other. In exchanging the gifts, they discovered that she had cut and sold her hair to a wig maker to buy the watch chain, and he had sold his treasured watch to buy the decorative combs. After their initial "shock", they both broke into laughter and fell into each other’s arms, realizing that elegant watch chains and expensive hair combs mean nothing — it’s their love for one another that really counts!
Today, the greatest "gift" for each of us and our world is Jesus himself, the Word made flesh. Nothing, nothing is more perfect or more precious or more practical or more necessary. Jesus comes to us and our world, enfleshing and sharing unconditional, eternal L O V E …
Like the early Magi, may we do Him homage by faith-filled lives of love and service — rooted in simplicity, wisdom, and openness. With the psalmist we pray, "may every nation on earth adore you."
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the local leader of the Passionist community in Louisville, Kentucky.