Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
There was a time when today’s celebration was the major celebration of the Incarnation both in the East and the West. Why today, rather than Christmas? Because, following the St. Luke’s Gospel, on Christmas Day the birth of Christ is announced to Jewish shepherds, a sign of the fulfillment of God’s covenant with his Chosen People. But today, we celebrate the manifestation of that same mystery to non-Jews, in the persons of the Magi. It is not just the well-known star that draws the Magi from their own country. On some level, they hope for what Isaiah had foretold: that the Jewish people could be a standard and a light for all the peoples; we might say, a sacrament of God’s Kingdom for every member of the human race. That is why what we celebrate today is so important for all of us–it’s our feast of the Incarnation. How many of us were born into the Jewish people? How many of us could endure the long-suffering history, the arduous vocation of the Jews?
In New York City we had a Jewish Bakery, Levy’s, famous for its authentic Jewish Rye Bread. An advertising campaign in the late 1960’s filled our subways with images of American Indians, Chinese gourmands, ginger haired Irish diners or Homies from “the hood” biting into generous sandwiches of rye bread. The accompanying message was, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Jewish Rye.” Well, the Epiphany is God’s version of that good news: you don’t have to be Jewish to enter the Kingdom of God first revealed to and through the Jews. The Epiphany is our special celebration.
What do we have to be? As I look at the Magi, I would say that we have to be trusting, hopeful, flexible and listening. Trusting God as much as God trusts me. The three foreigners do not hesitate to offer their strange gifts when Mary might have appreciate something practical: a brisket of beef, a package of Pampers, laundry detergent. I must trust what I am–that’s what God created me to be to get the job done–rather than re-invcent myself to conform to expectations and win approval. Hopeful that however long and round-about the journey may be, I will arrive where God calls me, where God needs me to be. Flexible, lest I dictate the shape of God’s work. How undeterred the Magi are to find nothing more than an infant with his mother! Listening, to be attuned to God’s direction, even when I’m required to change direction, even when I can’t go back the way I came.
Are these the values of our world of entitlement or our culture of victimization? Are these the standards that maintain the status quo or insure my comfort?
Do I have the courage to follow where God is leading?