The Meaning of Epiphany

Etymologically, epiphany means manifestation. Epiphany is the revelation of Jesus to the whole world, especially to the human race. Jesus is made known to the ends of the earth! This epiphany event gives no one an excuse not to know God, especially his teachings and statutes. It shows how much God loves us, his sentiments for us, and his plan of redemption, for through the humanity of Jesus, God became closer to us. It wasn’t only the shepherds who came to know about the birth of Jesus, but also the wicked king Herod. The scribes and the chief priests also knew about it. The three kings came from different directions in search of the babe, to confirm the birth of the Messiah.

Let us look at the different characters in the gospel and their reaction upon hearing about the birth of Jesus. First, Herod: this king was a very wicked, insecure, greedy, and paranoid king. He never wanted to give up his throne. Whenever he heard of someone who might take his throne, he would order the killing of that person. That’s how the lives of his three wives and sons ended. When Jesus was born, the news spread far and wide that a newly born child was to become the king who would shepherd Israel in the future. Upon hearing this, Herod became furious and ordered the killing of all the newly born children—just to be sure no one would take his place. This explains why immediately after Christmas we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents. This feast reminds us of all the innocent babies who were murdered by the wicked king. When Herod came to know about the birth of Jesus, he wanted Jesus terminated. His feelings of anger, fury, jealousy, and pride exemplified his hardness of heart and unwillingness to embrace the way, the truth, and the life offered by God. Herod was the picture of a person who will never want to change his evil way of life.

The scribes and the chief priests were also mentioned in the Gospel. The scribes and the chief priests were masters of the law and knew everything about the birth of Jesus. When Herod inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born, intelligently they replied, “Oh king, according to the prophet he will be born in Bethlehem of Judea.” They were certain about it! Yet their knowledge about Jesus was only in their minds and intellects; the knowledge never reached their hearts. There was a feeling of indifference. It was as if they were saying, “Yes, we know about it and so what?” This is
an example of faith in theory but not in practice.

The last group we hear about is the Magi or three kings. These three kings were said to be pagan astrologers! But when they heard of the birth of Jesus, they traveled afar to go in search of the newborn king and to pay homage. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The Three Kings were pagans. Unlike Herod, they were ready to embrace the way, the truth, and the life given by God. Unlike the scribes and the chief priests their knowledge of Jesus went down to their hearts and led them to go in search of him and to learn more about him.

May the Epiphany of Jesus be an inspiration for us to be always in search of Him, love Him, and know more
about Him.

Reflection by Fr Michael Gazzingan