I am sure these reflections have, in the past. suggested that there will always be a market for what I term

A PIN RELIGION / FAITH? This is the sort of thing I mean: punch in your Personal Identity Number, press receive, and out pops God with your predetermined expectation! This approach is reflected not only in some of the more extreme Pentecostal sects (e g the prosperity cult) but also within some of our own Catholic devotional practices which rely on numerical repetition for achieving a mathematical total which guarantees a specific result. None of these can possibly be ‘of God’ because He (or She!) cannot be contained, measured or processed. WE DO NOT NEED A HEALTHY SPIRITUAL BANK BALANCE IN ORDER FOR OUR LIVING AND LOVING GOD TO MANIFEST HIMSELF.

Manifest

means to show or be shown. The celebration of the Lord’s EPIPHANY is the day when we joyfully remember the Lord’s manifestation of himself to the WORLD – to ALL PEOPLE – in the persons of the three Wise Men. I wonder how, when and why the wise men were turned into kings? In this there appears the dreadful religious (not faith) tendency to embellish the facts and complicate matters. Is it easier (more comfortable) for us to be grand rather than wise?

MATTHEW’S VERSION OF THE GOSPEL [2: 1 – 12]

is the only one which records the arrival of the Wise Men: now when Jesus was born … Wise Men from the East came to Jerusalem …” The shepherds (the simple and uncomplicated) had already seen him, marvelled and returned to their ordinary daily tasks. They had not come from afar for Luke tells us that they were in this same district.” [2:8]

Next came the wise who had journeyed some distance. They saw and recognised what was being manifested to them but our Matthew extract tells us that “they returned home another way.” They were wise in many ways – especially in the ways of the world. One of these, which had also been manifested to them, was Herod’s hidden and secret agenda. In this context it is worth recalling that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man .”

[1 COR. 1: 25]. I am not even sure that Herod was clever? Certainly he was not wise. The arrival of the Wise Men was, indeed, the beginning of a manifestation for the king himself. He freely chose not to recognise what would have been so freely and readily shown to him. Rather, he became devious – he summoned the wise men secretly – and secretly ( as well hypocritically!) began to lay his murderous plan. HEROD WAS AFRAID TO COME FACE TO FACE WITH HIS GOD.

Sometimes, if not afraid, I become hesitant.

What about you? Think of the opportunities we miss (NOT ‘have’ missed)!? The shepherds had not been hesitant – Come, we must go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing which has happened …” (LK 2: 15). The Wise Men had made a long journey which they continued right to the very end – our Gospel extract tells us that when the saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly … and going into the house they saw the child.” Christmas, for us, has not ended until we go straight to Bethlehem … see the star, go into the house and see the child. SEE THE CHILD THAT IS MANIFESTED TO US. RECOGNISE HIM FOR WHAT HE IS. We do all of this as we kneel at the Crib. Only then are we able to take up the challenge of manifesting (showing) HIM to others.

Our celebration of Christmas is stillborn unless we are empowered, enabled and willing to do some manifesting.

Our shepherds and wise men returned to their ordinary daily lives and living. Is it possible that (a) their experience left them unmarked, and (b) that they never said a word about it all to anyone else? Surely not! WE ARE CALLED TO BE HUMAN MESSENGERS! We might not be angels but we can be effective messengers – messengers of, and for, God-in-Christ.

OUR OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 60 1 – 6]

begins with the words “arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” When we leave the Crib today, Epiphany Sunday, may these words be burnt into our hearts. However, before leaving lift up your eyes round about, and see …” SEE WHAT IS WAITING FOR YOU – a world, your immediate world, hungry for God-in-Christ. So, arise and shine!

Not only are ‘the waiting’ “fellow heirs, members of the same body” but they are, often unknowingly, waiting to become “partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the Gospel.”

{see THE NEW TESTAMENT READING [EPHESIANS 3: 2 – 3a. 5 – 6]} Those who wait are not ‘outsiders’ – they are merely waiting to be recognised and invited in. In addition, today, let us hear Pope Francis who recently told us that “the poor and sick are riches in the Church.”TODAY’S PSALM [72 or 71] proclaims that “he will have pity on the weak and the needy’ and save …” How does ‘he’ do this unless we recognise these riches and arise and shine (manifest) – in a practical and hands-on manner?