The Epiphany of the Lord
January 2, 2022
At 7:20 a.m. EST, on December 25, 2021, as Christians were celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ, scientists around the world were rejoicing over the successful launch of the rocket carrying NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope into deep space. They were so focused on their work, some of them might well have been oblivious to the fact that it was Christmas morning. The project that held their attention was certainly all consuming.
It has taken 10 billion dollars, and the efforts of countless contributors from numerous countries, working over a period of 30 years, to realize this ambition. When it arrives at its destination in about one month, the world’s largest and most powerful telescope, will have the capacity to look through both distance and time.
I am not a physicist or mathematician, so I admit that I don’t have a clue how all this is supposed to work. We lay people are told however, that this telescope will literally operate as a “time machine”. Somehow it will be able to transmit images from the very beginning of the universe.
Scientists will also be using this highly sophisticated instrument to search for the existence of life on other planets. They hope to discover a treasure trove of information from this great venture.
The fact of the matter is, these brilliant people have an infinite amount of wisdom readily available to them in today’s Readings. Actually, I wonder if the circumstances which delayed the much-anticipated launch to the early hours of Christmas morning, weren’t an invitation from The Holy Spirit, to the scientists, engineers, physicists, mathematicians…all the great minds involved in the project, to learn from the three unnamed seekers described in Matthew’s Gospel proclaimed on this Feast of the Epiphany.
The dramatic story of the Three Magi is an example of what human beings can accomplish by working together. The multi- national and generational NASA team is already aware of that. But their colleagues “from the East, who arrived in Jerusalem having seen a special star at its rising” were most likely aware of a truth, that our modern explorers might be ignorant of.
The very desire, as well as the skills and abilities required for exploration are gifts from The Creator. God does not keep secrets. God is continually revealing The Divine Self in countless ways; providing the inspiration and the knowledge for humanity to forge ahead towards a deeper understanding of our origins and our destiny.
Truly “wise people” understand this to be true. Truly “wise people” will appreciate that whatever is to be learned through human efforts is actually God’s Revelation…not just scientific accomplishment.
The goal science has set for itself by sending a powerful telescope into deep space, is to look back in time, to what is referred to as “The Big Bang.” The Mag were far more ambitious. They were eager to look through time, so that they might explore Eternity. Truly wise seekers…those who allow the Holy Spirit to guide their research, are eager to explore “the last frontier” …THE ETERNAL KINGDOM OF GOD!
NASA is hoping that this great effort of the 21st century will lead to discovery of life on heavenly bodies other than Plant Earth. The Three Wise Persons, who embarked on their journey after the Birth of Jesus, by contrast, were longing for an encounter with Divine Life. If successful, it was their intention to prostrate themselves and pay Him homage.
They were successful in their venture. And, when they did encounter the Christ-child, in the most humble of circumstances, they humbled themselves. They knelt before a baby in a manger.
The story of the Epiphany is a reminder that all advances in knowledge should be used for the good of all humankind. Still, at the same time, there is an element of warning in this chapter of the Christmas story. Herod plays a key role. Herod had evil intentions.
Tragically, Herod is still alive and well. The world must be vigilant and resist any and all efforts to use the fruits of this venture for any other purpose than the good of all humankind.
At the conclusion of their visit to Bethlehem, these visitors from a far-off land, returned home “another way.” I wonder if this means something more than charting a different route home. Is it possible that this detail tells us that they returned home changed? Enlightened? Filled with wisdom not just knowledge? Hopeful for the future of humankind?
If the “seekers” involved in the expedition into space accept the invitation to the Holy Spirit to look at creation…not simply through a telescope…but through the lens of today’s Gospel as well…they will discover something beyond their most ambitious expectations. Like the Magi, they will be rewarded with an encounter with God.
A final thought.
The 3 Magi should be a source of inspiration and guidance…not just to scientists. The Epiphany should be an inspiration to all of us. After all, we are all “seekers” …searching for an encounter with Christ.
We don’t need to travel to the far side of the universe to discover what we seek. God is within each of us, eager for us to turn inward and enjoy a visit with The Source of infinite peace and love.
Accept His invitation.
Come Let us Adore Him!