1. Self-revelation of God
Feast of the Epiphany not only reminds us of the historical event described in today's Gospel according to St. Matthew. This ceremony draws our attention to the fact much more significant and unusual, namely the fact that God wants to reveal himself to his people. This revelation of God repeatedly described in the Old Testament is final and ultimate in the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews puts it very clearly when he writes: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken unto us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2). It is a matter of cardinal importance the recognition of the importance of the fact of God's revelation in the Son. God Himself decided that the best and most appropriate way of self-revelation to man is a revelation in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
This self-revelation of God is very often presented in Scripture as the Enlightenment, the coming of light "for enlightenment." Simeon says in the temple at the time of sacrifice: "Now, Master, you may let your servant depart in peace, according to your word, because my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32). And St. John writes in the prologue to his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:1-5). Also, Christ himself says of himself: "I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me may not remain in darkness." (John 12:46)
You could even say that this is the most important element of faith. God decided to "enlighten" his people, "enlighten" a man living in the darkness of sin and therefore revealed himself as Jesus Christ - God incarnate. If you negate the fact of the incarnation, if you negate the truth that Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Son of God, the self-revelation of God, then all our faith is shattered, because we then deny also that He is the Messiah, the Savior, Redeemer, Liberator. And then there is no salvation, no eternal life, there is no Divine Mercy, and everything is an illusion and misunderstanding.
That is why Christians from the beginning so much defended the truth of the self-revelation of God through the Incarnation. And this is why today this truth is most strongly eradicated by unbelievers and atheists. Satan is constantly trying to convince us that Jesus is NOT the incarnate Son of God and He is only unusual (but only) man, a wise guru, a teacher, an itinerant preacher. If Jesus is not the final word of God spoken to man, if He is not the Light of the World, then we still live in the darkness, and the darkness engulfed us, we still live in the darkness of sin, because there is no Redeemer, no one who by "enlightenment" moves us out of darkness.
But there is one more important element of this divine pedagogy of enlightenment. Namely, that actually to be enlightened one must recognize and accept the One by Whom the enlightenment is performed. Magi from the East in today's Gospel are looking for light, looking for the newly-born Son of God, they recognize and welcome Him, offering Him homage. But not all follow the wise example. As in the second part of the prologue St. Jan writes: "The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew him not. (LIGHT) came to his own, but his own did not receive Him." (John 1:9-11) And that's why so many people continue to live in darkness and hopelessness.
In an interview with Nicodemus, Jesus also says sadly, "... the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). It is unfortunately still true for many of those who have rejected and continue to reject the light, even in our times. This is true of those who loved darkness because their deeds are evil. And because they are afraid of light, afraid of the Incarnate Son of God and the truth that they do not want to accept. So on today's Solemnity of the Epiphany ask yourself this very important question: Can I say that according to the expression of St.. Paul "We are all sons of light and sons of the day", are not rather that we are the sons "of the night and darkness?" (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Is the light of Jesus Christ illuminating the darkness of my life? Is it transforming and illuminating? For as long as I live in sin, I reject the truth of the Incarnation of the Son of God, until I give up myself to the sanctifying and purifying action of light, I do not live in light and darkness still envelops me.
Pope Benedict XVI criticized the "cool academic approach" of the Scripture, which leads to the "vivisection secrecy" with "ignoring the dimension of the supernatural". "These were taught, off those whom found the Magi coming from the East to Bethlehem, the Pharisees. They knew where the child was born, but the message has not touched their lives. They could provide information, but it has not contributed to the formation of their own lives, "
2. Glorify the Lord, all the nations of the earth
It seems that they are right, those who speak of imperialism if the Church or Christian imperialism. Church proclaiming Christ to all continents for centuries is certainly causing some mixed and confusing reactions. Some people have also similar feelings after the publication of dogmatic document "Dominus Jesus", which generated so much discussion among theologians and the peoples of Asia as well as among the liberals and dissidents. But is it true that the Church is imperialistic; or rather it is only some kind of "allergy" or aversion of God?
Leaving aside these kind of academic and theological disputes maybe it will be better to look at today's Gospel scene. We see the pagan nations, in the persons of the three wise men (the Magi) coming to not at all an imperialist Christ, to a Child and recognizing in Him the King, Whom they want to worship. Today's Solemnity of the Epiphany shows us the immense truth that man (on each latitude and in every culture) is waiting for the manifestation of God, the Creator. It shows that humanity yearns for Him, and is looking for Him eagerly. It is not the Church or Christianity that is imperialistic; God wants that all nations on the earth may know the truth of His saving Love for man, the truth of His saving Passion, Death and Resurrection.
It is undoubtedly true that often in the history of the Church some institutions have committed an error of imperialism. It is true that some people of the institutional church have had an imperialistic attitude. But this kind of generalized accusation is a misunderstanding if you look at the whole history of salvation and its effects. Church since apostolic times was always aware that it is "The love of Christ impels us". And this awareness, this imperative of God's Love nobody who knows Jesus could resist. Let's not get mad when others accuse us that we are imperialist, because we "impose our way of life", because we command or are forcing to live according to our own, Christian norms and rules. Working in the missions for more than fifteen years I didn't notice anything like that. I also try not to impose anything and do not violate anyone's beliefs. Church rather proposes: "If you want to be saved, if you want your life took on a different and deeper meaning and dimensions of eternity, believe in Christ. Ultimately, however, the choice is absolutely yours. "Thousands of martyrs in Africa, South America and Asia, teen of thousands of missionaries who gave their lives in proclaiming the truth to save the man from his misery are the best proof of this. And those who secretly sell weapons to the Third World countries, those who exploit them economically, who steal natural resources, they can scream and shout loud -for sure- about the imperialism of the Church to cover their own evil and dark machinations. And the Church cannot cease to preach Christ, Jesus Christ crucified. He came as a child, helpless and without power, so to release the man from the powers of evil. And so, evil will always be the loudest in protesting against the revelation of the goodness. And that evil still screams accusing of imperialism the Church of Christ and distorting the truth, just by dressing up itself in the garments of truth and freedom.
Christians - do not be ashamed to be the followers of Christ and showing others the One Who for the salvation of humanity became Man. Even if we are accused of all sorts of imperialism, let us not be ashamed to be the disciples of Christ. Let's not get crazy, discouraged and intimidated. Let's not use force in converting, but let us not be weak and submissive conformists, let us not compromise the Gospel for the sake of political correctness or luxury. Let us live as followers of Christ and in our life let us proclaim the fact that He is the only Savior of man. May His Name – the most Holy name of Jesus- will be known and praised by all who believe in Him, and for those who reject Him, let it be the Name full power and causing fear in their hearts.
Only wicked people may accuse Christ of imperialism. Wise and honorable people -as Patrons' Saints of today- always recognize in Him, in Jesus Christ the Savior and the true King, Who conquers the world and the human heart, but not with weapons and power, but Love which He is revealing to humanity. Only the foolish and perverse political systems are afraid to open the doors for Christ. Only the little people, persevering in their selfishness do not want open the doors of their hearts for Him.
In order to meet Christ, to find Him you have to go on the road, on a quest. To meet Christ you must decide to leave the known and friendly situation, you have to leave the beaten path and tracts of your comfortable, convenient -and very often- sinful life and hit the road, through the desert. It is worth noting that God revealed Himself to the Israelites in the wilderness after they left Egypt and decided to hit the road just across the desert. It is worth noting that the great prophets of the Old Testament, also met God in the desert (Ezekiel, Isaiah, Elijah). It is worth noting that St. John the Baptist, was also acquainted with the desert. The Magi in today's Gospel also reached Bethlehem after traveling far and difficult journey through the desert.
There's definitely some regularity, some deeper meaning. God reveals itself in the desert, where no one and nothing -we do- mind and disturb, where there are no distractions and the "entertainments", where I am alone with the infinite. Desert, especially at night, is a place where I can count on one light in which I can see with great clarity only one aim and one destiny. A "darkness that covers the earth and thick darkness that envelops the peoples" may be lit only by a single star, the star of eternal truth, the star of faith. It cannot, however, be only a momentary fascination, or transient, emotional infatuation. Such a journey through the desert in quest of Christ practically never in our lives did end there. We can never tell that we already arrived. I cannot say: "I have him, I found him". God never really could end His revelation, because He is the Infinite, and only at infinity will I be able to know HIM.
He continually reveals Himself to us (unless we are disposed to this and as far as we left to go to the desert) and constantly the revelation will be continued as long as we do not give up in searching. What is the biggest problem of our time? Is not it just temporary, momentary rapture, instability, lack of patience, lack of perseverance? Why break up a marriage, why so many people give up out of the way of religious vocation or the priesthood? Why are so many things we start and do not bring to an end, why are we so often discouraged? Is not it because the desert and what we discover there's scares us? Is not that why the "star disappears from the horizon to us?"
We bring together some gifts, but quickly discouraged, we do not see the purpose of our journey, do not come to this purpose, because we messed up the path, because we lost the guiding star, we have lost the sense of our journey, because we choked and flooded by the troubles of everyday life, because we are scared of the inconveniences and hardships of the journey. That is why we are trying to arrange for us a convenient and comfortable life. And then the road through the desert, and thus the purpose of the road disappear, and the only thing left is temporal struggle for existence and survival. So, our life is only a trip, it's just the way across the desert in search of the house of bread - Bethlehem, where Jesus is, and the table, and the bread, and light, and infinite life. To live means to be constantly on the way. It means to continually seek the star that leads us through the desert to the house of the Father, Who is revealed there, in the desert.