By Fr. Serg Kabamalan, CJM
The prophecy-fulfillment pattern comes back in today’s readings as we celebrate the Epiphany Sunday, the wondrous self-revelation of God to the world!
The prophecy comes from Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72. They both speak of the time when God shall rule Israel and all the world. Isaiah’s prophecy is a confident exhortation to the people to rise up to the occasion. This is remarkable as it happens in the midst of their exile in Babylon when they were cut-off from Temple worship and were probably filled with guilt and desperation for having turned their backs against the Lord. Isaiah talks not just the mere restoration of Temple worship or of how they use to be as an independent kingdom. Rather, it is a promise of God dwelling with them. He uses the metaphor of light shining in Jerusalem, the city of King David, to dispel the darkness of the world. The presence of God giving light and life to the people will transform Jerusalem into a beacon of light and will attract all the world to it. Psalm 72 brings the element of peace and justice in this same reign of God over all Israel and the world, when God himself will take care of the marginalized and the unwanted in human society, gathering all nations and powers around to serve him.
Now that prophecy comes to fulfillment in both the Gospel and the second reading. The Gospel speaks of the birth of Jesus, as this coming into the world like light in the darkness, that attracted wise men from the east. They were not Jews but Gentiles, representing the best of what the non-believers can be if only they would seek the truth. They were guided by the star of Bethlehem into the dwelling place where Mary and the child has moved. And as a sign of fulfillment, what Isaiah prophesied were fulfilled, they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold represents power and riches, for indeed no one is more powerful and more rich that our Lord Jesus Christ even if we combine all the powers and riches in this world. Frankincense symbolizes the priesthood of Christ, as finally someone who is divine has united himself into our own humanity, thus making Jesus as the one and only mediator between God and human beings. Myrrh on the other hand symbolizes the greatness of God’s love whereby self-emptying would be completed with his death on the cross, completing God’s total embrace of all human experiences, our joys and our passions, and our end… so that the human end merely becomes a bridge through which all of us can cross into the transcendent existence God intends us to have. So, in a remarkable but simple turn of events, God has revealed himself and his plan of salvation for all through the visit of the magi.
The Epiphany or God’s self revelation continues as evidenced by the second reading from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians (3:2-6), whereby he proclaims that this self-revelation effects salvation not just for the Jews but for the Gentiles as well, indeed for all the nations, making the Gentiles co-heirs, members of the one Body of Christ, and co-partners thru the Gospel. Thus, accentuating the fulfillment of God’s promise to all peoples of the earth symbolize by the magi’s visit. It means much more for us, who find ourselves every now and then thrown into the darkness and the unknown. Yes the prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus, but it has to be fulfilled again and again in the hearts of men and women.
We, like the Magi, have to make an effort to see God from the vantage point of our own sorry state… in our struggles… our mindsets, attitude, and self-defeating beliefs. We have to search for the light of Truth in this age when fake news seems to be more attractive, when oft repeated lies becomes truth, when the forces of darkness holds sway in the minds of people looking for comfort and stability. But the light of Jesus continues to shine. He has endowed us with the capacity to discern, search and recognize the presence of God in our midst. That can happen if we let go of our fears, our false beliefs, and our inclinations to take away our blindspots so that we can realize that the light of Jesus is shining brightly and beckons all people to come to him, and in the process, become a light like him in our coming together as communities and as a church to drive away the darkness and clouds of the world. Meaning the Epiphany of God becomes visible and effective in our time through us.
As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, may God give us the grace to let the light of Jesus shine in our collective lives by our good works.