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
‘Nations shall walk by your light’
There’s an obvious connection between today’s first reading and the Gospel. Isaiah prophesies that when God makes his light dawn on his people, “the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. … All … shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.” Matthew recounts a visit of “Magi from the east,” who travel to Bethlehem and offer Jesus “gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
The connection between the two biblical texts is meaningful. Isaiah’s prophecy helps us recognize the baby in Bethlehem for who he is. He is God’s light dawning in the world.
The connection, however, is not what we might call neat. When God reveals his glory in the world, Isaiah says, “nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.” While the customary depiction of the Magi as kings makes them look like the fulfillment of this prophecy, the Gospel does not, in fact, identify them as such. Magi were wise men.
There is a king in the Gospel account, of course, but he is not drawn to bask in the radiance of the baby in Bethlehem. Herod talks about going to give the baby homage, but this is a ruse. He plans to kill him. When his plan is foiled, he sends soldiers to Bethlehem to slay all the baby boys they can get their hands on.
We may wonder how either of these readings connect with our lives. Isaiah summons his listeners to “raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you” (Is 60:4). In many parishes, when we look about, we see pews left empty by those who have departed.
The bit of Isaiah’s prophecy that seems to map most easily onto our world today is his statement that “darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples.”
The Lord has, indeed, come and shown himself to the nations. Yet his coming has evoked not only welcome but also hostility. Some are coming to believe; others are drifting away.
Nevertheless, we can see “the glory of the Lord” that has dawned.
I see it in Christians around me who are supporting single moms and their babies, helping former prisoners get a new foothold in life, welcoming immigrants and refugees, and offering meals and shelter to those who are homeless.
Reflection: Where do you see the light of today’s feast shining?