Today we celebrate the third and final solemnity of the Christmas season, the Epiphany of the Lord. The symbol which characterizes this solemnity is light. It is first of all Christ who is our light. As Word made flesh, he is the fullness of God’s revelation of himself to humanity. By the light of faith, through which we have been enlightened in baptism, we are made capable of accepting this revelation. It is this light, which draws us to Jesus and enables us to profess our faith in him as the Christ, which is symbolized by the star in today’s gospel.
The Magi in today’s gospel represent the whole of humanity, for God’s plan of salvation is universal in scope. The people of the Old Covenant, Israel, understood that all nations would someday acknowledge and worship their God as the one true God, symbolized by those from throughout the known world streaming to Jerusalem. (Cf. First Reading and Responsorial Psalm) This has come to pass in the Christian era, since “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Second Reading)
Now we are called to bear the light of Christ, in word and deed, into a world still too full of darkness. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says: “You are the light of the world…your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father.” (5:14a, 16)
The liturgical season of Christmas ends this Monday, January 8, with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. As narrated in the Gospel for the feast, God the Father himself attests that he whose birth we have been celebrating is in fact God the Son become man. This truth was announced by angels to shepherds, signified to the Magi by a star and heralded by John the Baptist.
The incongruity of the sinless Son of God receiving a baptism of repentance was not lost on John the Baptist. When Jesus came to be baptized, John said: “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Nevertheless, Jesus insists upon it “to fulfill all righteousness.” The preface of John the Baptist explains it this way: “To make holy the flowing waters, he baptized the very author of Baptism.”
Jesus’ baptism was to mark the beginning of his public ministry. The baptism we received is the baptism with the Holy Spirit that John predicted would succeed his baptism of repentance. (Cf. Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16) It is through this baptism that we become God’s children by adoption, “born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.” (John 1:13) From this flows our ministry as members of the Body of Christ: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
Pray the rosary this week for our Holy Father’s intention for evangelization, religious minorities in Asia: “That Christians, and other religious minorities in Asian countries, may be able to practice their faith in full freedom.” The Magi in today’s gospel were “from the east”; Christ was born in Asia; let us remember our brothers and sisters in Asia who live with religious discrimination or oppression.
May God bless his people with peace.