A common feature in movie plots is ‘the big reveal’. It’s a plot device that exposes previously hidden knowledge needed for the viewer to finally put characters or the situation in context. Think of movies such as “The Sixth Sense”, “The Planet of the Apes”, or “Star Wars”, with the famous line “Luke, I am your Father”.
I think these plot twists are so successful because we all yearn for that one moment in our lives when everything suddenly makes sense.
The story of salvation is one of God’s revelation, events that make all that came before, or even come after, make better sense. God is always revealing, manifesting, himself to humankind. Early in salvation history Abraham encountered God’s manifestation through the divine invitation that took him away from his father’s house to an unknown destination (Gen.12:1). Moses experienced the presence of God at the burning bush, and that was only the beginning as God also manifested himself alongside the people of Israel with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire (Ex. 13:21). Elijah had several experiences of divine manifestation including the still wind at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:12).
God often uses angels as the messengers of divine revelation. Think of the role that angels had with, for instance, Zachariah the father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:11), and the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26). The revelation to Mary explained in a brilliant flash much of what had gone before in salvation history and is still actively revealing God to us today. The angels revealed the glory of Christmas to the shepherds. And God also reveals himself in scripture, through the prophets and through the law.
The uniqueness of the feast of Epiphany is that God reveals imself, a big reveal, to the world beyond the chosen people of Israel. It began with the visit of the Magi, of God calling the gentile nations to worship Jesus Christ. the Word that became flesh (John 1:14).
The big reveal of the Epiphany of the Lord is an event that took place once in history but is still fresh and active today. It leaves us with a host of unresolved questions. “Why did God choose Magi from the East for this role?” “Why was their journey such a tedious one?” “What is the significance of the visit?” “What does the visit mean for our lives today?”
The Magi represents all of us who are invited to come and see the revealed glory of God which the first reading (Isaiah 60:1-6) narrates to us. To reach the newborn King, the Magi had to follow the star. I sometimes wonder – were there other Magi who were invited to follow the star, and either were lost or are still on their journey, because of some distraction or difficulty?
I think there were because we are the modern-day Magi. We are they who are invited to follow the star. It is in fact the only invitation that matters. Following the star was not easy for the original Magi, nor is it for us. The Magi had to travel far from where they were to where God wanted them to be. We can expect no less.
As with those Magi who preceded us, there are numerous lesser stars around today to distract us from following the star. Our journey to the Lord is often a series of starts and stops. There are obstacles in the way, some of which appear quite appealing. We encounter enemies, even some who, like Herod, try to subvert our journey for their own purposes. It takes passionate commitment, faith, and unfailing hope, and even that is not enough. The Magi received heavenly help in a dream. Like them, we must be open to God’s grace helping us to reach our goal.
The journey of the Magi reflects our journey of faith to encounter God. The star first appears in our life when we are reborn in baptism. The star directs us towards a profound encounter with Jesus Christ. On our lifelong journey of faith, there will be times when the star seems to be out of sight. Those times represent low spiritual moments and when life seems to be not to fair. Obstacles abound. We can be sure the Magi experienced dark nights as well. Like the Magi, we should not be discouraged either by our thoughts nor the lack of faith in people around us.
Our journey of faith is a search for the infant Jesus. We follow the Word of God as our star with faith and focus. Ultimately, God will ask of us a unique offering to reach our goal. The narrative tells us that the Magi gave offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus. What God asks of you is vastly more precious – it is simply yourself. When we give all to God, he blesses us with more than what we offer.
As we celebrate the feast of Epiphany, remember that we are the Magi of our day, still searching for Jesus Christ. The search will take our entire earthly lives, through which the infant child calls us. At the end of our journey, we will joyfully embrace the biggest reveal of all, the revelation of God the Father’s plan of loving goodness for your life and for the whole world. Then we will see our life in context.
This New Year will indeed be full of grace if we commit ourselves to following the example of the Magi and the call of the child Jesus.