This Sunday, we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The word “epiphany” literally means “revelation” or “manifestation.” It calls to mind the image of a curtain being yanked aside, unveiling a work of art to the public for the very first time. Or, it is like the world premiere of a highly anticipated film like “The Hobbit.”
In either case, the excitement and anticipation have been building over the course of weeks and months. There are rumors of what the finished product will be like; there are speculations being thrown about by critics and fans. There is the occasional sneak peak or trailer, providing just the slightest glimpse of what is coming and further whetting everyone’s appetite.
Though it can be hard for us to imagine, for many people, this is what the coming of Jesus was like. While the Israelites and others knew that a Messiah — a Savior — was coming, they knew very little about him.
Every now and then, a prophet would give a small glimpse of what he might be like. The Scriptures provided hints in veiled language about the day of his coming. There was great anticipation among the people. Finally, the veil was torn aside and he was revealed. The Gospel for this Sunday recounts how Jesus Christ was manifested to the whole world, symbolized by Magi who came from foreign lands.
And what a manifestation this is! By Jesus’ birth, life, ministry and death, God has revealed to the world everything we can know. Everything! All truth — about God, our faith, human beings and the rest of creation — is found in Jesus.
We are privileged to have received this revelation. But, as you might imagine, it needs some unpacking. A movie that has great literary depth and significance is not fully understood after you see it once. You must watch it again and again, each time discovering more of the meaning within it. This is true even though all that meaning was present the first time you watched it.
If this is the case for a great movie, it is even more the case for Jesus — the Truth — who contains and reveals all truth. That fullness of truth was there when you first encountered or heard about him, but now it needs to be unpacked. This is true no matter how much or how little you know about him. We are never finished with this process of encountering Jesus Christ more deeply and learning more about our Catholic faith.
As a result, it is important to continue doing these things throughout our whole lives. The Year of Faith we are in is a great opportunity to do just that because there are many Catholic books and resources being made available to us at this time.
Pick up one of them, such as Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscover Catholicism” or Pope Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth,” and begin working your way through it. You’ll find that, as the first reading says, “your heart will throb and overflow” with what you find (Isaiah 60:5).
Deacon Joah Ellis is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His home parish is Epiphany in Coon Rapids, and his teaching parish is St. Timothy in Maple Lake.
Sunday, Jan. 6
The Epiphany of the Lord
- Isaiah 60:1-6
- Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
- Matthew 2:1-12
Meditate and pray over today’s Scripture readings. What insight do they give you that you didn’t have before?