Friday, January 6, 2017

The King Made Manifest

The Epiphany of the Lord

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Epiphany represents the climax of the Christmas season. It recalls the time when wise sages from the east came to Bethlehem to adore a newborn king. It is an image remembered in songs and on Christmas cards, but do we really understand its meaning?

The only time we hear the word "epiphany" used outside of the Christmas season is when someone has a breakthrough idea. They have a moment of clarity that suddenly allows them to see a solution to a problem, or that reveals up a new way of seeing the world. Their eyes open wide and they cry out, "I've had an epiphany!"

An epiphany is more than a good idea. It's an eye-opening understanding. It's like having cataracts removed and seeing the world clearly for the first time. A synonym for "epiphany" is "manifest." To manifest something is to reveal it -- to make known what was hidden. When we read the origin story of a superhero, it's usually about the first manifestation of his or her powers. Through this manifestation they discover who they really are, as does the world.

Epiphany is the manifestation of the greatest superpower the world has ever known - Christ's unstoppable love for us. God desired so much to reconcile sinners that He came to be with us in person. Christ is the manifestation of God in the flesh.

We can think of Christmas as the manifestation of Christ to the Jewish people. For nine months since the annunciation of the angel to Mary, the Divine Son of God remained concealed in His mother's womb. It was not until Christmas day that His presence was announced to Jewish shepherds by choirs of angels singing, "Glory to God in the highest!"

But the manifestation of Christ does not stop at Christmas. Jesus came to the Jewish people, but He did not come only for the Jewish people. Christ came to redeem the whole world, which is why the feast of Epiphany is so important. On this feast we celebrate the fact that Gentile sages came to worship a Jewish baby who was King of the Universe. Their epiphany is the manifestation of Christ to the world.

There is a popular phrase that circulates during the Christmas season: "Wise men still seek Him." This is true. We call these eastern sages "wise" because they were seekers of the truth. They sought the truth in the stars and something they saw in the sky at the time of Christ's birth led them to seek out a newborn King in Judea. They discovered the truth, and they followed where it led.

We are called today to be wise men and women. We are called to seek the truth. We seek it in religion. We seek it in science. We seek it in philosophy. We seek it in our lived human experience. All truth reveals to us -- if we have eyes to see -- the one who is Truth, Christ our God. May we have the courage of the magi to leave our comfort zones behind and follow where the Truth leads us; all the way to the manger, all the way to the cross.

By following the Truth as disciples of Christ, we continue to make Him manifest in the world. By living a life united to Him, we make Jesus manifest in our lives. We make Christ manifest in our relationship with others, in how we love our neighbors, care for the poor and sick, and lead others in virtue. As our celebration of Christmas draws to a close, let us pray that Christ be made more and more manifest in our hearts each day throughout the coming year.

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