Related Notes

  • Epiphany 2019

    Posted by Mary Wilson January 5, 2019 - Category: Spirituality - 442 views - 0 comments - 0 likes -   #epiphany 
    In a village India, on a cold morning three palm fruit farmers were warming
    themselves by the fireside. Soon two of them were engaged in a heated debate
    comparing their religions to decide which one was the true religion. Ram, the oldest
    among them, sat quietly listening to the debate. Suddenly the two turned to him and
    asked, “Decide for us, Ram. Which religion is the right one?” Ram rubbed his white
    beard and said thoughtfully,“Well, you know there are three ways to get from here to
    the oil mill. You can go right over the hill. That is shorter but it is a steep
    climb. You can go around the hill on the right side. That is not too far, but the
    road is rough and full of potholes. Or you can go around the hill on the left side.
    That i sthe longest way, but it is also the easiest.” He paused and then added,
    “But you know, when you get there, the mill man doesn’t ask you how you came. All
    he asks is, ‘Man, how good is your fruit?’”
    In the stories of Jesus’ birth, two special groups of people came to visit the
    new-born babe: the shepherds and the magi. The church has no special feast to
    commemorate the visit of the shepherds but we have this special feast of Epiphany
    today to celebrate the visit of the magi. Why is that? It is because the visit of the
    magi is an eye-opener. The shepherds learned of the birth of Jesus through a direct
    revelation from angelsappearing in the midnight sky. This is direct and supernatural
    revelation. Many of us have no problem with that. The magi, on the other hand,
    learned of the birth of Jesus by observing a star. The star did not say anything to
    them. They had to interpret this natural sign of the star to know what it meant and
    whereit led. If we remember that the magi or the three wise men were
    nature worshippers, people who divined God’s will by reading the movements of
    the stars and other heavenly bodies, then we can see how the visit of the
    magi challenges some of our popular beliefs.
    Like the palm fruit farmers, religious people of all persuasions tend to think that
    their religious tradition is the only way toGod. This is what some of us hear when
    we hear such words of Jesus as: “I amthe way, and the truth, and the life. No one
    comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). We hastily conclude that the way
    of God equals the way of our religious tradition. Yet the word of God cautions us
    against such a narrow interpretation. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are
    your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). That is why we are fascinated with
    the story of the visit of the magi. It is a unique story that opens our eyes to
    the fact that God is not limited to any one religious tradition.
    In the past, Christians tended to make the same mistake as the Jews of old by
    claiming that there is no salvation outside the church. This idea glued
    fundamentalism to fanaticism. Then Vatican II came along, the church opened the
    windows to the Spirit of God, and came to recognize that God’s truth is available to
    people of other religions, although not to the same degree that it is available in
    the church. The difference between the Christian faith and other faiths, therefore,
    is not that we possess the truth of God and they do not, but that, thanks to God’s
    unique revelation in Christ, we can know and see God’s truth more clearly, love God
    more dearly,and follow God’s ways more closely in our daily lives.
    Notice how people of different religious traditionscame to know that the Son of God
    was born. The shepherds who were regarded asunclean and could not take part in
    Temple worship without undergoing purification came to know through a direct vision
    of angels. The magi knew through a reading of the stars. And King Herod’s scribes
    came to know through searching the scriptures. Visions, stars, scriptures — different
    ways of arriving at the same truth. Of course this does not mean that any
    religious tradition is just as good as the other. Notice how Matthew indicates that
    when the guiding star got to Jerusalem its light failed and the magi had to
    consult the scriptures to direct them to Bethlehem. (v.4-6). Over and above the
    natural light of the star the magi still needed the supernatural light of scripture
    to finally get to Jesus.
    Yet the crucial question in the story remains: Who actually got to find Jesus? Herod
    and his scribes who had the scriptures failed to find Jesus but the magi who followed
    the natural light of the stars were able to find him. Why? Because the Jewish
    authorities, even though they possessed the shining truth of revealed scriptures, did
    not follow it. They did not walk in the light of the scriptures. The magi, on the
    other hand, who enjoyed only a star light followed its guidance. It is not the
    possession of the truth that matters, it is how prepared we are to walk in the light
    of the truth that we possess. It is better to have the dim light of the stars
    and follow it than to have the bright light of the Holy Scriptures and neglect it.
    As Christian we believe that our religion possesses the fullness of truth. But what
    does that benefit us if we do not walk in the truth? Nature worshipers or
    non-believers who are sincerely committed to following the dim light of natural
    reason may arrive at Jesus before Christians who have the exalted truths revealed by
    God but who do not walk the walk of faith. This is the challenging truth we celebrate
    today in the story of the pagan wise men who seek and find the Lord.