The ceremony of UNVEILING is well known around the world. Most great structures and monuments are normally fenced and secured from the public view during the process of building until they are finished and ready for public exhibition and then they are ceremonially unveiled for all to see and appreciate. Very often, the unveiling ceremony is characterized with so much excitement and joy as people take pictures to keep the memory. We can also identify so many other forms of unveiling like books, events, works of art and many others.
Today we are celebrating the height and zenith of UNVEILING. It is not about a structure, it is about the greatest structure. It is not about a book, it is about the greatest book. It is not about an image, it is about the greatest image. It is not about the unveiling of an event but that of the greatest event in human history. It is about the UNVEILING of our Lord Jesus Christ to the world; traditionally known as EPIPHANY.
The word Epiphany comes from the Greek Epiphaneia which means striking appearance, apparition, revelation or manifestation. In the Church’s understanding Epiphany has to do with God’s STRIKING revelation, manifestation or UNVEILING of himself to the world in the person of Jesus Christ. This is a significant event through which God showed that He is the God of both Jews and Gentiles (Gal.3:28). After the visit of the shepherds (presumably Jews) to the new born child through the direction of the nativity angels, wise men from the East (Gentiles) also encountered the glory of God’s manifestation through Jesus Christ with the direction of the magnificent star.
Epiphany from our understanding here involves two important and inseparable strands namely: God’s invitation to us to come and our human response. God calls us to see and appreciate His gift of inestimable value which He has unveiled for us. To this the Letter to the Hebrews (1:1-2) said:
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the world.
We respond by going to see and appreciate God’s gifts. How do we appreciate God’s gifts? We do so by giving God our own gifts. The greatest of these gifts is the gift of our whole being.
A reflection on the wise men from the east is most fitting today. There are various descriptions about them especially in terms of their number and identity. Some people refer to them as “three” wise men on account of the three gifts they brought not that the account of Matthew (2:1-12) recorded that they were three. In some translation they are called magi which refers to a caste within ancient Zoroastrian religion made up of knowledgeable men skilled in studying the movement of the heavenly bodies; some would thus liken them to astrologers while others still refer to them as kings.
Today, we are more concerned about their mission than whom they were. The bible reported that they saw a star that was different from the usual as it indicated the birth of a great king. God has many ways of manifesting his presence. Here we are presented with the fact that divine manifestation has been going on at various time and in various ways, but the one we are celebrating today sums up the whole gamut of divine revelation wherein the Word is made flesh and is UNVEILED to the entire world. Here it was not like a vision or apparition but concretely tangible in the person of Jesus Christ born in a manger in that enclosure in Bethlehem.
Going back still to the visitors from the east we reflect on what constitutes their wisdom.” Their wisdom is rooted on their decision and determination to go forth and search for greatest phenomenon ever in human history; namely our Lord Jesus Christ. They were convinced that nothing is worth searching for except the new born king whose star was visible but only discoverable by those wise enough to read the signs of time and are able to understand divine signs.
They were like the parabolic wise man who discovered a treasure in a land and sold everything and bought the land (Matt. 13:44). Their wisdom consisted also in their decision to leave their homes and occupation to search for God. Hence they understood that God is above everything and He is worth searching for just as we cannot exchange Him for anything at all.
Only the wise can know, appreciate and work with patience. From the story we discover that they remained steadfast in their search, even when the star disappeared they were not discouraged; they were patient and still committed in the search. They however mistook Herod to be a wise man but he showed himself foolish.
Only the wise can appreciate divine counsel. They listened and followed the advice of God through the angel not to return to Herod and to return to their base through another route. God keeps talking to us in various ways. It takes wisdom to listen, appreciate and follow God’s directives at all times. Finally, only the wise knows how to give gifts to God. From their gifts we understand that they gave all to God. Their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh is an indication that they surrendered all to God. It is wisdom-dependant that their gifts were of great significance to the person and mission of Jesus Christ.
It takes wisdom to go as far as these men went in search of the GREAT UNVEILING. It is no gainsaying the fact that Wise men and women are still searching for God. Whenever there is a divine convocation they respond and go to the whole length notwithstanding the challenges. To answer God’s call there is need for one to change from an old position to a new one.In all the examples of God’s call one thing remains consistent, the person called is expected to leave his or her position to a new one.
From what we have above, there is a constant need for us to change from an old position to another. These men left the comfort of their location in the east to respond to God’s call following the magnificent star. In this New Year, we are also called to do a relocation from the unfruitful old standpoint to a fruitful new one. For us to move to this new position we need to be insightful enough to see the star which represents God’s unfailing words and to follow it to where it will lead us. We need to be in constant search for God. An attentive mind may quickly ask: “where can we search for God?” We can search for God in the following places:
- In ourselves. God is in us and with us. We are created in His own image and likeness. (Gen.1:27).
- In our fellow human beings. Whatever you do unto others that you have done unto me (Matt. 25:31).
- In God Himself through His words (Heb.4:12) and the sacraments.
In our search for God there need for us to keep up the search and never to lose heart. From the account we have from Matthew (2:1ff) they saw the star and followed it but by the time they came into the city of Jerusalem they could not see it again. It was then that they inquired from the unwise Herod about where the king of the Jews will be born whose star they saw earlier. Now immediately the wise men continued their journey to Bethlehem and their search for the new born king, the star appeared again and went ahead of them until it came to the place Christ was born.
The lesson above is that we should never be discouraged when a situation does not seem to be favourable like it was earlier. These men were not discouraged; they stayed in the game. When profit is no longer forthcoming like before in your business, stay in the game. When your family life seems to be facing turbulent times, stay in the game. When no one seems to appreciate your input at your workplace, stay in the game. The wise men could have turned back when the star disappeared and when the King could not understand what they were talking about; they stayed in the game and their mission was fulfilled as the star came out again. Sometimes your star would seem dim; do not worry, it will rise and shine again but you have to remain in the game and continue to search.
Today as we celebrate the GREAT UNVEILING of the Lord; which tells us of the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world, we ask ourselves what do we have to UNVEILTO THE WORLD. What type of epiphany do we engage ourselves in? Do we engage in unnecessary unveiling by showing forth all the evil there is in the world. We are challenged today to become imitators of God by unveiling the right things and dispositions with love as the guide. As we launch into the New Year let us also be ready to unveil the right thing. Let us continue the search for the Greatest and we shall be given great values for our lives. That
Have a fulfilling feast of epiphany and a blessed week ahead. May God unveil His unfailing help and mercy upon your life.