The solemnity of the Epiphany is the most “missionary” of all solemnities and feasts of the liturgical year. It reveals that the Father’s mind (called by St. Paul a mystery) was made up from all eternity to create for himself a Family that would include and hold in his loving embrace all the nations of the world from across all ages.
This awesome and most magnanimous mystery was made unmistakably evident (was “epiphanied” so to speak) in the Son, THE missionary whom the Father sent into the world to set in motion the realization of his universal plan of salvation. This awe-inspiring plan is so gigantic, so universal, so monumental that Jesus Christ, the Son himself, from the beginning, has decreed to be “in need” of countless other missionaries to assist him with the stewardship of God’s grace (Ephesians 3:2-6).
Paul is just one of the many charged with the stewardship of God’s grace. All of us, according to the mind of the Father, should consider ourselves missionaries, i.e. sent to carry out the stewardship of God’s grace.
On the solemnity of the Epiphany, we want to pause and contemplate the unfolding of the Father’s awesome plan. What we see is an endless outpouring of the inexhaustible riches of God’s grace across the millennia: from his wide-open heart down to each member of the Body (God’s Family, the Church) through the Son.
In describing it, St. Paul nudges us gently, yet forcefully, to overcome our innate sense of superiority and be active in preaching the Gospel so that all those to whom we are sent may realize that they, too, are meant to be coheirs and sharers in the same promise in Christ Jesus.
Those who are reached by this incredible good news, be it through the rising of Jesus’ star (Matthew 2: 1-12) or be it through one of God’s countless means of reaching even the most hardened hearts or be it through humble stewardship, should respond by paying homage to the New King.
Clearly, the plan starts with the Father down vertically to us through the flesh of his Divine Son, the New King.
Now, even if we are seasoned believers it would be very spiritually healthy for us to enumerate some of the Gifts that are poured upon us through the Son. The first Gift is the Holy Spirit in whom we become adopted children of God, members of his divine Family, coheirs of all divine riches. With the Holy Spirit we also receive the flow of grace through the Sacraments that attend to each of our spiritual needs in the various seasons of life. Through the Holy Spirit we also receive the Holy Scriptures: the words of life and the correct interpretation of those words; we receive healing assurance of forgiveness, heavenly favors, consolations, light, guidance, inspirations, fortitude, resolve, will-power and much needed comfort.
Our homage should be expressed with a generous, total and uninterrupted surrender of our self to the will of the Father. This realization, if genuine and intense, would trigger a “frenzy” of gift exchange also horizontally to complete the symbol of the cross which is the icon and the indelible sign of the “cost” of the mystery of salvation to the Holy Trinity.
Now, some of us might be caught up in the pageantry of the three kings from the east and feel justified in not heeding the call to join St. Paul in carrying out the stewardship of God’s grace. So, lest we water down the significance of this solemnity, let me remind myself and all of you that there is an explicit, direct, repeated order to rise in splendor so as to be fully aware of this most generous outpouring of gifts (Isaiah 60: 1-6).
This realization of the frenzy of gift exchange must make us radiant and feel our heart throbbing in our chest. In other words, the contemplation of Father’s plan of salvation has to affect us in such a deep and lasting fashion that we become totally consumed by gratitude and feel irresistibly compelled to become missionaries and carry out the stewardship of God’s grace.
Furthermore, as citizens of the New Jerusalem, we should be keenly aware of what the old Jerusalem did when confronted by the good news of the New King in her midst.
When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
It is vital that we feel the weight of a wrong response to the Father’s most generous outpouring of gifts in the Son, the newborn King of the Jews. It is impossible to remain in the state of being “greatly troubled” before the Father’s Gift to his people, to his Family. Being greatly troubled, eventually, generates darkness, fear, murderous feelings, death and even self-destruction.
On this solemnity we gather to do Eucharist, i.e. to give thanks, to pay homage to the Father for the Gift of his Son. We do so through the Son, in the Son, with the Son. And with the Son we pay homage by surrendering our entire self to the Father unreservedly, totally, without holding back. The Father will be thoroughly pleased with our offer and he will inspire us to carry out the stewardship of God’s grace, horizontally.
For those who wonder how we can be stewards, how we can preach the Gospel with our lives, how we can be missionaries, I have a little list of ways we can use in our horizontal gift exchange. We have simply to consider our call in life and enumerate the gifts we have already received directly from the Father or through fellow coheirs of divine largesse.
According to our health condition, status, age, availability of time and so on, we can offer companionship, comfort, assurance of prayers, motivation, encouragement, sincere love, even tough love, even discipline, an example of integrity, of fortitude in adverse conditions, and so on and so forth.
If we are truly ready to engage in the stewardship of God’s grace, the Holy Spirit will inspire us to participate fully in this exchange of gifts so that we will become thoroughly radiant and full of irrepressible joy.