Happy Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord! Today, we celebrate the revelation of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, into the world. First, Jesus was revealed to the shepherds in Bethlehem in the manger, and now to the Magi who came from the East to adore the newborn King. Imagine the conversations of the Magi as they traveled to meet Jesus. Uncertainty and discovery marked their journey. Remember there was no GPS to show the direction of where they needed to go. However, brightly visible light from a star was the compass on their journey to meet Jesus. In the first reading, Prophet Isaiah describes, “the darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples.” Light is needed to break the darkness - Jesus is the light. The vision and mission of God are evident in the incarnate Christ, the star, the true light of the world. As Isaiah points out, “… upon the Lord, the light shines, and nations shall walk by your light.” In our reflection, I will focus on three themes: intention and motives, the meaning of the gifts from the Magi, and on a transformative encounter.
For me, the Feast of Epiphany brings back my childhood memories. Growing up in the countryside in Kenya, women (birthers) sang ululations, announcing the birth of a newborn to inform neighbors of a new member in the community. On receiving the news of a newborn, women filled baskets of presents for the baby and family including clothing, and foodstuff. It was a joyful moment to introduce the newborn baby to the community. Like the Magi, women waited with an open heart and mind in readiness to welcome the newborn into the community. Of course, the visit of the Magi had a unique significance; they were drawn by the Holy Spirit to seek the newborn Christ, “the true light which enlightens everyone.”
On Intentions and motives: Mathew’s narrative is descriptive, that the Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, inquiring the location of the newborn king of Jews, as they had seen a star rising, and had come to pay him homage. Hearing these words, we read that Herod is perturbed and anxious about the inquiries of the Magi. Consequently, he assembled the chief priests and scribes and inquired where the Christ was to be born. The response did not serve to ease Herod’s anxiety, for the Magi confirmed the birth of the King was, “in Bethlehem of Judea.” Herod asks of the Magi to return and let him know of the whereabouts of the newborn child. Of course, Herod’s concerns were political and self-centered, his intention and motive were not to go and do homage to newborn Christ, but to harm baby Jesus and thus remove a perceived threat to himself.
Herod’s action is not new in human interactions; think about the active tensions or wars around the world, within nations, in communities, and families. In conflict situations, we have suspicion, mistrust, and fear, we judge, and are not open to alternative interpretations. Herod’s experience is not far from our own, particularly in situations where answers do not favor our ideas or perceptions. When confronted by individuals with different perceptions than our own, let us learn to pause, to listen to our inner voices and to check our motives and intentions before we respond.
On the gifts: The Magi brought with them the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These were meaningful and symbolic gifts. The precious and expensive gift of Gold demonstrated the importance of Jesus, the savior of the world. Frankincense, a sweet perfume, often burned in the temple to worship God and was a sign that Jesus should be worshipped. Myrrh was used to keep things fresh, and to preserve bodies after death. Myrrh is a gift that will be used by the women to anoint Jesus’ body when he died. Indeed, the three gifts represented the mystery of the incarnation and foretold Jesus’ suffering and death – completing the history of salvation.
On a transforming encounter: The encounter with Jesus was a life-transforming event for the Magi. It was the culmination of a long physical journey that changed the course of their lives. Think of a memorable experience that has had significance in your life. These moments are rare and far between, but they remain vivid and clear in our memories. A single event can bring complete transformation of a person’s life forever. Mathew explains, after adoring Jesus, the Magi “returned to their own country by a different way.” The word “way” has several meanings, ‘a course traveled, a new direction, a possible decision or outcome, a habitual manner, or a mode or pattern of behaving.’ Of course, the Magi did not wish to inform Herod of where the baby Jesus was but more significant and powerful was the Magi’s encounter with Jesus. An encounter that so transformed their inner self and certainly, they could not return to their old ways because through the Spirit, the one true mystery of creation, Jesus Christ, is revealed to them.
Indeed, something deeper and extraordinary took place in their lives. The Magi embraced a new and noticeable way of life after their encounter with Jesus. Their new path and behavior were noticeable by others – a new direction in life. We are invited to pause and ponder, do our encounter with Christ in the scriptures and the Eucharist transform our lives? Are we going to remain the same after this encounter? Let us look within and around the neighborhoods, are there things we have taken for granted - the migrants, refugees, or people experiencing homelessness. We are called to step out of our comfort zones to visit, to be present, to accompany and to provide for those in need. Pope Francis asks us to move to the periphery. We have a choice to remain the same or to open our hearts, to open our eyes to see the light of Christ in others, to walk with those who are searching, and, to purify our motives and intentions for the spirit is generous to guide and accompany us on our journey of life. God bless you!
Sister Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF
Sister Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF, Ph.D., is a member of the institute of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis, Kenya. Wakahiu provides leadership and direction of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s program department operations budget, contracts, consultant management and policy implementation. She also oversees the planning, development, implementation and evaluation of the Catholic Sisters Initiative. Responsibilities include advancing the vitality of congregations of women religious globally, enhancing global capacity building, and enabling sisters to contribute more profoundly to sustainable human development, as well as to enhance the effectiveness of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She also contributes to the Foundation’s strategic planning. In her previous role, Wakahiu led the Foundation’s grantmaking program department in an interim capacity.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Wakahiu was the executive director of the African Sisters Education Collaborative(ASEC), where she implemented many programs by working closely with leadership conferences, major superiors, religious congregations and institutes, twenty-three partner colleges and universities in the United States and Africa, and major foundations. Wakahiu has extensively taught at the undergraduate and graduate level, and has a breadth of teaching and administrative experience from leading a high school in Kenya and as a leader of women’s organizations.
An accomplished author and editor of two books, “Transformative Partnerships: The Role of Agencies, Church and Religious Institutes in Promoting Strategic Social and Sustainable Change in Africa,” lead editor of, “Voices of Courage: Historical, Sociocultural and Educational Journeys of Women Religious in Africa,” and co-author of, “Fundamentals of Research Methods in Education: A Students’ Handbook.”
Wakahiu’s peer-reviewed articles are published in national and international journals and a contributing writer for the Global Sisters Report and her peer-reviewed articles have been published in national and international journals. Wakahiu serves in several university several boards and advisory boards.
Wakahiu holds a Ph.D. in human development and higher education administration from Marywood University, a Master of Arts degree from Saint Bonaventure University, and a Bachelor of Education from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.
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