There are three significant “epiphanies” in Jesus’ life. “Epiphany” means to make known. We celebrate the three kings who gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus to make known who this child is. Gold is a symbol that Jesus is the King of kings. Frankincense symbolizes that he is the High Priest of God. Myrrh is oil that is used to anoint the deceased of God, especially his prophets, and thus it symbolizes that Jesus will die a prophet’s death. The Church also celebrates the Baptism of the Lord on January 9, the evening of which ends the Christmas season. John the Baptizer is called by God to participate in this “epiphany” by baptizing Jesus, although Jesus has no sin from which to repent. Rather, God uses this moment to send the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove to hover over Christ. Meanwhile God declared to all who would believe “This is my beloved Son. My favor rests on him.”
To those well versed in the Old Testament, one can see clearly that God foreshadows this event in the story of Noah’s ark. After God cleansed the world of sin through the flood water, Noah’s dove brings back an olive branch as a sign of peace. Olive oil is used for anointing, and so in this Baptism of the Lord we can see that God reveals the Holy Spirit as a dove who anoints Jesus Christ, God’s “beloved Son,” that the fullness of peace would come to those disciples who hear and follow his holy doctrines.
The next significant “epiphany” is the wedding feast at Cana when Jesus changes water into wine. The wedding at Cana is a celebration of a man and woman becoming one in God through the sacred gift of marriage. Jesus’ presence at this celebration reaffirms God’s natural gift of marriage and raises it up to a holy sacrament, a supernatural gift between one man and one woman.
Just as the water was used for “purification” by the Jews at the wedding feast, so Jesus purified the waters that would be used for the Sacrament of Baptism.
And just as a man and a woman become one at a wedding, so God unites himself to the soul of any human being that would be baptized into Jesus Christ and follow him as a disciple of his Church.
When we are baptized into Christ we are called to witness to Jesus as the King of kings, High Priest and Prophet of God. Jesus is our King and Brother, and we have been adopted into God’s royal family as princes and princesses. Our mission as members of God’s royal family is to rejoice in his generous governance over us that protects our human dignity and the sacred dignity of our Baptism.
Flowing from this mission, we are called to protect the dignity of others by guarding the natural and supernatural gifts and truths of God for all people. Christ is the High Priest. Through our baptism into him we begin to share in the ministry of Jesus as members of the “common priesthood of Christ.” We offer prayers and sacrifices, especially at Mass with the “ordained priest,” in order to sanctify our lives and bring blessings upon our loved ones.
By our Baptism and our reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are called to pass on God’s love and truth and thus share in Jesus’ prophetic role. Not many of us will be called to lay down our physical life for the love and truth of God, but the Church celebrates the martyrs who gave their lives completely for God’s love and truth.
However, each of us is called to die to our selfishness and thus be prepared to give of ourselves like Christ and his martyrs – and thus share in God’s love and truth forever in the perfection of God’s infinite love and happiness in heaven.
Christmas Season Peace and Joy,
Fr. Thomas McCabe