By JAY ROY LUMAS-I TIPAYAN
Episcopal Church in the Philippines
(Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13; Isaiah 6:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12)
What does the Epiphany of the Lord mean? As per theologians and bible scholars, the feast of the Epiphany means an appearance or revelation. It recognizes the manifestation of God in Jesus, and of the risen Christ in the world. It is a time for believers to consider how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy and how we Christians can fulfill our mission by following the His footsteps in serving the least and the marginalized. The scriptural foundation of this is found in Matthew’s story of the coming of the Magi. The scripture states that the Magi came from the east guided by a star to see Jesus and presented him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We can read many interpretations of this, but one thing is for sure, their arrival and the gifts they offered a great meaning to the story. Light is the key symbol of this feast. The divine mystery of God, which is present and engaged in the humanity of Jesus Christ, becomes a light to all nations.
But let us not dwell on the theological interpretations as I am not a theologian myself. Let us reflect upon the epiphany of the Lord in our current context and why it matters.
The past year has been bleak and gloomy. We have been exposed to the pandemic which rendered many of us weak and vulnerable. Many people have died at exponential rate, as many of members of our communities who are already suffering from poverty are pushed even more to the sidelines. Many grew hungry and poorer as harsh, violent lockdowns are implemented. On top of that, the government’s lack of a sound plan in quelling the disease in an already fragile economy only exacerbates our hopeless situation. 2020 was indeed a dark and difficult year. Last year, we also have become witnesses to so many disasters and calamities that visited the country. We have seen the rising authoritarian powers, quelling resistance. Violations to rights and life become unprecedented. These revealed how vulnerable we are and how system of injustice proliferates in our society. Our leaders have lost their sense of reason and service in order to pursue their own personal selfish interests – greed and power have been their normal ways.
As we are facing turbulent times in a world in enveloped in darkness, violence and destruction become a day to day reality. These situations are not new. Our ongoing struggle is heightened by the global crisis. With all of these happening, some of us or maybe most of us fell silent and remained in the dark. At times, we ignore the struggles of our very own society. By being silent we take the side of the wicked and of the powerful. We either fear that our resistance will cause us trouble. When we are silent we become accomplices to these injustices. The oppressors take this opportunity to expand their power and drive us into the depths of suffering. The more we are inclined to this option, the more we become indifferent to the needs of the least ones. In some way we lost our sense of humanity.
The message of Epiphany introduces us to light, that Jesus was born as the Son of God. Indeed a celebration of hope, a sign of rejuvenation, a sign of awakening. A sign of getting out from the depts of apathy, and accepting the challenge that we should not be silent no more. A sign that amidst darkness, there is light. And as a people who believe in the light of Christ, we are meant to see the wonderful things that God has bestowed on us. We are meant to witness the beautiful things that will unfold. We are meant to act as light in the midst of darkness, and that is by responding to the needs of the people around us so they can also feel, and see the hope that is in Christ.
As Christians, I believe that we are called to become peacemakers and peacekeepers, actively seeking an alternative to the politics of violence and destruction. Let us be the light in a world covered with darkness. Let us be the revelation of renewed life to our marginalized siblings. Let us liberate one another by standing up, refusing false idols that deliberately normalize violence. Let us not be dull-spirited when we are ought to be radiant.
Our very own government who sworn to protect their people have consistently failed us. Now, more than ever is the time we take on the torch and keep the fire burning for service to our people. Let us build a society where people in position respond to the cries of the poor, privilege the needy and put justice first. Let us remember that the epiphany embraces every dimension of life and calls us to see God’s revelation by working hand in hand in the quest for God’s Shalom. As we become the living testament of God’s epiphany in a broken world, let us rise up, and speak up, and be silent no more. Let our light uncover new and radical alternatives that usher new and better possibilities for the people. Let Jesus’ light hover our lives to eliminate the darkness that has blocked peace out of our land.
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).