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The Epiphany of the Lord: Feast reminds us that God holds the answer to our desire for happiness

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Sunday Scripture readings, Jan. 8, 2023: The Epiphany of the Lord

1) Is 60:1-6  Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13
2) Eph 3:2-3, 5-6  Gospel: Mt 2:1-12

Feast reminds us that God holds the answer to our desire for happiness

Happiness is a million-dollar industry. Products promising happiness come in the form of self-help books, pop psychology programs, anti-aging products, and wellness and mindfulness retreats. The more money we spend on products that promise happiness as a superficial and temporary feeling, the less happy we become!

And so, the human search for happiness continues with ever new and improved attempts to fill the deepest longings of the human heart.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that true happiness is “not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement — however beneficial it may be — such as science, technology and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone the source of every good and of all love” (1723).

Jem Sullivan writes for OSV/Catholic News Service (CNS photo/courtesy Jem Sullivan)

In our human yearning for happiness, the lens of faith lifts our gaze beyond what is visible and material to invisible, spiritual realities. God has written on each human heart the natural desire for happiness by which we draw ever closer to our loving creator.

Epiphany highlights God’s answer to the natural human desire for happiness in the search for truth, goodness and beauty. Isaiah invites the people of Israel to turn their gaze heavenward to God as he says, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. … Upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.”

In recognizing God’s closeness, the people find true happiness, for “then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow.”

In the Gospel, St. Matthew tells us, “Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.'”

And we might wonder why the Magi came in search of Jesus? These men of wealth and power were searching for the divine source of wisdom, power and riches that transcends human existence. In their pilgrim journey to the stable of Bethlehem they represent the universal search for happiness, written by God on each human heart.

When the Magi reach the humble place where Jesus was born they encounter a divine child, not a philosophical treatise or a mission statement from God! The Magi see God revealed in human flesh, Jesus, the Son of God who comes to fulfill the human longing for happiness.

As St. Matthew recounts, “They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

In the Christmas creche we encounter Jesus, the incarnate Son of God and divine source of true and lasting happiness. Jesus is revealed as the universal light of the world to all peoples, not just to a chosen few. As we renew our faith in Jesus this Christmas season, let us approach him with joyful confidence and pray, “speak to me, Lord.”

Reflection Question:

How does the manifestation of Jesus to the Magi strengthen the faith and witness of Christians?

Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.