January 4, 2015 – The Epiphany of the Lord
Is 60: 1-6; Ps 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Eph 3: 2-3A, 5-6; Mt 2: 1-12
“You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit…” With those words to the Ephesians St. Paul speaks of the revelation that we celebrate on this Sunday of The Epiphany of the Lord. As a people called to stewardship, it is always enlightening to see the word “stewardship” used in Holy Scripture. That is the word used in the New American Bible, Revised Edition (2011) utilized by the U.S. Bishops in their recommended readings and other Scriptural references.
In the original Greek the word used is oikonomia that meant to the Greeks “stewardship” or “administration.” The important key for us is St. Paul’s recognition that he has been gifted by God; he has further been appointed and charged as the steward of these gifts; and that these gifts have come to him from the grace of God. The Greek word for grace (charis) is more than just a kindness or gift from God; for us it means “a gift brought to us by Jesus Christ” with the attached attitude of gratitude and thanks for that gift.
St. Paul is reminding each of us that we, too, are stewards of God’s grace, and just as he accepts that charge and calling and lives it out, we are expected to do the same. That is how we live stewardship out on a daily basis. Of course, this calling is fulfilled in the manifestation of Jesus Christ which is celebrated on this Epiphany Sunday.
As you might anticipate, each of the readings for this Epiphany celebration relate directly to The Epiphany of the Lord. The revelation of Christ’s divinity is presented to us originally by the prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. “Rise up…Your light has come. The glory of the Lord shines upon you.” It is as if through the revealing of the salvation of Christ, a bright sun, like the dawn, has broken over a dark land, and all is revealed in the splendor of the Lord. Isaiah then foresees the coming of the Magi, and he even mentions the gifts of gold and frankincense. We are called to honor the Lord with how we live our lives, in stewardship.
As mentioned St. Paul makes reference to a revelation in the second reading. He specifically says that through God’s love the “mystery was made known to me by revelation.” For us the word “ mystery” implies something perhaps dark and sinister. However, the Greek word for “mystery” also means “hidden truth.” This is the context in which Paul was writing. The Epiphany of the Lord reveals the truth about salvation to us. The mystery, of course, is the truth that Jesus came to rescue all sinners, both Jews and Gentiles. Again this is a direct reference to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi who came to honor and worship the Christ child who represents salvation for them, as well as for us.
We are fond of calling the magi “Kings”; the reality, however, is that they were most likely astronomers, truly wise men who studied and, like Isaiah, anticipated the kingship, the divinity of Jesus Christ. They are cited, and correctly so, as examples of stewardship to us. They brought gifts, yes, but even more important, they worshipped. It is important to note that they worshipped first, and then presented the gifts. Recall that it was first the shepherds, humble and poor, who came to worship the Christ child in Bethlehem. Now people of means, the Magi, also come. For us as stewards we must not lose sight of the fact that worship by all comes first, then the response of gratitude for our own gifts by returning gifts to God and to the poor.