By Father Patrick Longalong
THIS WEEK’S Feast of the Epiphany is a continuation of the Christmas story in the prologue of Matthew’s Gospel. The beginning narrative reflects major historical events that give an explanation to the profound significance of the birth of our Savior, Jesus. There is, however, a subtle detail in this familiar story that many of us often overlook. It describes people that are on the move.
According to the biblical tale, shepherds came to visit the newborn child in the manger; the Magi from foreign nations came to pay homage; and eventually, Mary and Joseph and their new child had to flee from the death sentence that had been passed down onto their child and every firstborn child in their homeland.
All Too Familiar
The Epiphany is a joyful coming together of strangers in strange lands, but they could not remain in one place for too long.
And so it is for us. The story of immigrants and refugees escaping horrific living conditions is news that I hear more frequently than I would like to admit, especially because I am an immigrant too. I am aware that many people are turned away at the door just as the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph were when searching for a place to stay. We see and hear it happen: Immigrants are often unwanted, unseen, unheard, unwelcome.
The appearance of the Magi demonstrates our common journey, seeking answers to our human conditions. These wise men traveled far in search of the One who could give them resolution to life’s most difficult questions. They followed the light of a star and arrived at the stable – where Jesus, Mary and Joseph are gathered as a family – to offer homage and gifts.
The wise men are depicted in popular art as Asian, African and Caucasian. They are strangers, foreign, and yet, they are able to witness that Jesus came for them as well. He is the light that shines brightly, drawing all people to Himself so that they too may become part of His family. Their lives, like the lives of all of humanity, are part of the unfolding mystery that the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of – the saving power of the Gospel is destined for all people.
All throughout the season of Advent, we heard many prophecies from sacred Scripture referencing the coming of the Lord. Jesus was given many titles such as Messiah, Emmanuel (God with us), King, Son of David and Son of Abraham. These names described how Jesus fulfills the divine promise made to Abraham in which “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Gen 22:18). The prophet Isaiah foretold that when the Christ comes “nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (60:3).
In this hopeful image we can see that all of God’s people, both Gentiles and Jews, are welcome and invited to come to Him. St. Paul brings this message further home in this weekend’s readings when he described the Gentiles as “coheirs and members of the same body.”
Searching for Something More
The Feast of the Epiphany is for all of us who are travelers, not just physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. It is for those of us searching for something meaningful, for the unwanted and misunderstood, for the overlooked, unsung and homeless, for those trying to remember what it was like to be whole again and putting the pieces back together as best you can, recovering from breaks and wounds of all kinds.
As we approach Jesus once again in the manger, let Christina Rossetti’s Epiphany poem, “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” remind us the only appropriate thing to bring:
What can I give him, Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring him a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: Give my heart.
Readings for The Epiphany Of The Lord
Isaiah 60: 1-6
Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2: 1-12
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish, Queens Village, and the coordinator of the diocesan Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.