January 5, 2020 — The Epiphany of the Lord
As our celebration of Christmas continues, today we observe the great feast of The Epiphany of the Lord. The word “epiphany” comes from Greek and means manifestation or appearance. The stewardship way of life is one in which we live in grateful response to God’s countless manifestations in our lives.
And, as Christian stewards we are all called to manifest God’s love to each other in the sharing of our gifts. St. Paul describes this beautifully in our second reading in his letter to the Ephesians, saying, “You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit.” We have all been given unique and wonderful gifts from our good and generous God. He wants us to share these gifts to benefit others and so to give Him glory.
Our Gospel passage, from Matthew, also has much to teach us about stewardship — through the actions of the magi. These three kings from ancient days display many aspects of stewardship spirituality which we can apply as modern-day stewards right now.
First, we observe that their overriding priority is on honoring the long-awaited King. The magi travel a great distance in search of him. Upon arrival in Jerusalem they immediately begin to ask others where this King may be found, unashamedly declaring that they “have come to do him homage.” Is honor and worship of God our highest priority? Do we order our lives so that Sunday Mass is the most important act of the week for ourselves and our families no matter what else is going on?
Second, we observe that the magi, as good stewards, were watching for manifestations of God’s presence in their lives. “We have seen the star at its rising,” they say. Good stewards are keenly aware of the “star” of God’s presence and His gifts in their lives. It is this awareness that fills them with gratitude and the desire to both worship God and share His gifts with others.
Third, we observe in the magi that a stewardship journey is not without its difficulties, its twists and turns. Herod tried to take advantage of their goodness, feigning a desire to join them in worshiping the newborn Jesus, in order to hide his deadly intentions. Yet God protected and guided them along their way, and through their cooperation with God’s plan, He accomplished great things through them.
Fourth, we observe that the magi, upon seeing the manifestation of God’s presence in their lives, “were overjoyed.” Good stewards, who live with the awareness of God’s presence and gifts to them, simply can’t help but be filled with joy — not necessarily the fleeting and superficial kind of joy that the world promises if we just obtain enough wealth or power or comfort — but rather, the deep, unalterable joy that only God can give.
Finally, we observe that the magi were so filled with awe upon encountering the newborn Jesus, that they prostrated themselves before him. To prostrate oneself is to make a total offering of oneself in humility, recognizing the greatness of the One before them; it is an act of worship. And as a further act of worship, they “opened their treasures and offered him gifts.” This is precisely why good stewards generously share their material gifts — as a loving act of worship to an extravagantly loving God.
Let us rejoice in God’s manifestations in our lives and be watchful for the new ways He is calling us to share ourselves and our gifts in gratitude to our King in the year ahead.