Readings: Isaiah 60:1–6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2–3a, 5–6; Matthew 2:1–12

The Star of Bethlehem is a painting in watercolour by Sir Edward Burne-Jones depicting the Adoration of the Magi with an angel holding the star of Bethlehem. I love the responsorial psalms chosen for this season: “Sing joyfully…exult in the Lord…his faithfulness endures forever…” The community sings out such joy. The promise is fulfilled at last.

 Yet today we also hear in Psalm 72, “He shall rescue the poor one…and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.” It is a splash of cold reality in the midst of our exultation at the manifestation of God’s love incarnate. Two millennia after the Epiphany we still hear cries of so many afflicted ones and we experience in our depths the desire to respond. Since we are the body of Love Incarnate in today’s world, we are the ones called to incarnate that response, to manifest to the world once again that Christ lives and loves among us.

What do the readings of today offer us to assist us in becoming epiphanies, manifestations of Christ’s loving kindness?

Today we are invited to rejoice that love incarnate is for all nations. There are no limits or preferences on God’s part. Jerusalem fulfills its historical purpose to be the nation that brings the good news to all the peoples of our world. We the Church inherit that mission, so we strive to broaden and deepen our love beyond human preferences and borders of all kinds. Rohingya Muslims, storm and fire victims, criminal offenders— ours is not to judge worthiness, only to reach out in loving response, so that God’s desire of unity and peace among all of us might be realized. Each does one’s own little part to further God’s dream.

Light is another helpful theme for us. Light penetrates and overcomes darkness and gloom. The star guides the Magi on a journey that includes an encounter with evil, yet they are guided not only to their goal but also saved from harm. We are invited to entrust our personal and communal journeys to the God who brings us safely to know Christ. The Spirit is given us each day of the journey for both light and strength.

Light also illuminates, helps us to see reality. The Magi met Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They were enabled to see a humble, simple and loving family. Perhaps they did not understand fully, but they glimpsed God’s unique choice for how to be in this world. Humility, simplicity, charity – the virtues we Sisters of Charity have been offered as our ideal way of being present to each other – are illuminated for us as well in this gospel narrative.

What do we desire to manifest? A heart open wide to the peoples of our world, a heart that trusts God to guide and protect us on our journey together, and the will to live humbly, simply and lovingly in this world. May it be so. May God’s dream for the world be enfleshed in us.

–Sr. Margaret O’Brien, SC

Sr. Margaret serves in Congregational leadership as Assistant to the President and Treasurer. She is a former educator, administrator and VP for mission services in an SC-sponsored health system.