Grace to you!
I will love to use the occasion of the feast of Epiphany to reflect on the kind of people to whom God is made manifest. Epiphany, regarded also as theophany (manifestation of God) by the Church in the east, is about Christ being revealed beyond the shores of Bethlehem and Jerusalem to the whole world. It equally signifies that Christ is the savior of the world, not simply the Jewish race. Hence, it’s appropriate to think about the kind of people who encounter and continue to witness the presence of God among his people.
Reading Scripture and the events surrounding the birth and revelation of the Lord, one would notice, at least two classes of people to whom the revelation of God is made manifest. The first are the humble. The second are the wise.
Observe the first group of people to whom the angel broke the news of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were shepherds in the field (see Luke 2:8-14), those regarded as little and whose lifestyle was comparably humble. They became the first human heralds of the nativity. “God exalts the humble” (James 4:10).
Using the imagery of a child, Scripture speaks of humility as a necessary step to divine encounter. The Lord Jesus himself said, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest” (Luke 9:48). Blessed Virgin Mary’s classic Magnificat (song of praise to God) in Luke 1:46-55, expresses a similar idea.
The second group of people to whom God reveals Godself is the wise. Speaking about the wise, I will borrow from the classical description of Socrates, the ancient philosopher. In his attempt to define who the wise, or the so-called philosopher, is, he claimed it is the one who knows that he does not know. Because he knows that he does not know, he is wise. Knowing that we do not know opens us to a wealth of knowledge we don’t know.
The wise is known for asking a lot of questions because he or she wants to know. Those who know that they do not know (and even if they know, it’s only a very small portion of the complex structure of the world and reality) are open to new information and they are humble. It’s a sign of humility to know we do not know, the humility which is wisdom, hardly found in the arrogant and the proud.
Isn’t it true that all forms of knowledge begin with a sense of wonder, curiosity, wanting to know? To a person open to be filled, God doesn’t deny.
Let’s use the three wise men, popularly called the magi from the east, recorded in Matthew 2:1-12, as our case study. They saw and followed the star. When the star was hidden from them, they went in the house of the king, asking where is the newborn king? They wanted to see. The wise are always searching.
Herod and his retinue on the other hand, having found the answers in Scripture, chose not to hold on to what they discovered. The discovery didn’t fit their preconceived notion about the Messiah. Bethlehem, the little “house of bread” wasn’t what they wanted for the Messiah. In addition, the child wasn’t born in the king’s palace. No way!
As Scripture noted, Herod “was greatly troubled and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3). Herod, in particular, lacked the humility to accept what he didn’t know. From the house of Herod to the birthplace of Jesus is about six miles. While the Magi went to worship the child and presented gifts to him, all acts of holy reverence, a pointer to obedience of faith, Herod and his prideful, unwise retinue never went. They never worshipped.
In every generation and in every country, God finds friends. God finds hearts in whom his grace is revealed and his mysteries are known. They are the humble who realize, “I am a creature, God is the creator.” They are the wise, who know they know very little of the great mysteries we have been born into, the world and the complexity of nature.
Both qualities – wisdom and humility—are essential in connecting and making sense of Divine Revelation. They are actually related to each other. It’s wisdom to know who we are, our limitations and who God is, his sovereignty.
We pray with writer of the Book of Wisdom and we connect with the three magi’s story: Lord, let your wisdom be with us, always; to help us and to work with us. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.