Christ’s Salvation is a Gift for Every Human Being: The Epiphany of the Lord

Magi mosaicCentral Idea: Christ’s salvation is a gift for every human being. Doctrine: Love for the materially and spiritual poor. Practical Application: Christian service.

To view the Lectionary 20 readings, click here.

Central Idea: Christ’s salvation is a gift for every human being

Reading 1 Is 60:1-6

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.

Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

  • Jerusalem mystically represents the Church. The Church is the gathering of the children of God. Her light is Christ, the light of the world.
  • The Church is for everyone. Jews and Gentiles will flock to her and bring their gifts, including the kingly gifts of gold and frankincense.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;
the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.
All kings shall pay him homage,
all nations shall serve him.

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.

  • The Messiah is for the entire world and all lesser rulers will be subordinate to him, bringing him their homage and service. In turn, he governs with justice and brings profound peace.
  • But the Messiah practices a ‘strange’ form of justice: He rescues the poor and the afflicted.
  • Our Lord instructed us to pray to God the Father, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We can see what he meant in this psalm. We work for justice and peace; we bring our gifts to God by our service to others; of those who are poor in any way, we relieve their suffering in any way we can.
  • This work of divine justice is always incomplete on earth but it will be perfected in heaven.

Reading 2 Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

  • St. Paul told the Christians of Gentile origin at Ephesus that God’s promises to Israel belong to them also. They are (and we are) “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

Gospel Mt 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

  • When the magi arrived in Jerusalem, innocently seeking the newborn Messiah, Herod was “greatly troubled.” That is, he was filled with fear at this rival. Therefore, he cunningly devised a plan to murder him. He lied in saying he wanted to “do him homage.”
  • The gifts of gold and frankincense corresponds to Christ the King, whereas the myrrh indicates he would be put to death.
  • The appearance of the Gentile magi are a sign that the Christ child is the Messiah, because it fulfills the prophecies that the nations would bring their wealth to Israel in homage.

Doctrine: Love for the materially and spiritually poor

  • In this life, we contribute to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” when we work for justice and peace, develop the gifts God has given us, and give away the fruits of those gifts as a service to humanity, including relieving the suffering of those who are poor in any way.
    • Paul VI famously said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” We work for justice when we give every person, whether the person is God or one of our fellow human beings, what we owe him or her. The Magi owed the new born Messiah their homage and give it. Herod did not owe the Christ child or the other innocent infant boys in the area of Bethlehem murder.
  • In today’s readings the poorest man is Herod in his palace, because he is spiritually impoverished.
  • In the current state of the world under the reign of original sin, all of us are poor in some way.
  • The Catechism point § 2444 teaches us about the love for the poor that belongs to the Christian.
    • “The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition.”
    • “This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.”
    • “Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to ‘be able to give to those in need’.”
    • “It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.”

Practical Application: Christian service

  • In its widest sense, Christian service is every gift of self we make to others.
    • What does that mean, “gift of self”?
      • The choice to give comes from inside ourselves. In this sense, even performing a duty is a gift, since we consent to perform it.
      • It is a gift because in someway what is given belongs to us or has been entrusted to us.
  • Christian service should be as continual as our heartbeat.
  • The beneficiaries of our Christian service should be our families, friends, those we are in contact with through our work, those we can assist through our prayer, those we reach through evangelization, and anyone we can touch who is materially or spiritually poor.
  • Young people are often given an opportunity or required to do service through their schools. This can become Christian service by putting one’s head and heart into it, offering the effort to God for the good of those receiving the service.
  • Some important questions we should all ask ourselves often are:
    • Is there someone I am supposed to be serving right now?
    • Is there someone I am serving right now?
    • Am I really serving by putting my head and heart into it, offering it to God for their good?
  • Every time we do what we are supposed to do we are serving. These works of justice (doing what we are supposed to do) are works of service. Christ came not to be served but to serve, even to the point of giving up his life (Mt 20:28). We have the opportunity do be like Christ (to serve). These opportunities are found in the ordinary circumstances of our lives.

The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the Solemnity of the Epiphany:

  • CCC 528, 724: the Epiphany
  • CCC 280, 529, 748, 1165, 2466, 2715: Christ the light of the nations
  • CCC 60, 442, 674, 755, 767, 774-776, 781, 831: the Church, sacrament of human unity






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