Today is called the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord- epiphany means revelation or manifestation. And so today, we celebrate God revealing and manifesting Himself. For the Magi in our Gospel, seeing the star and finding the Christ-child was an epiphany, a realization, in which they were able to the see the revelation of God, to whom they in did homage and worshipped.
However, as I was preparing this homily, I was intrigued by our 1st reading from Isaiah, and not for the obvious reason because it is a prophecy in which gold and frankincense would be brought to a king, which of course the Magi in our Gospel did bring, and that praises were to be sung to the Lord. But I was intrigued by and with this homily want to reflect on the first 2 lines of our 1st reading. As a reminder, the first verses of our 1st reading is this: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and dark clouds cover the peoples, but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory”. In that context, Jerusalem referred to the Jews, the people of God, as Jerusalem was the city in which the people of God lived. But now, today, Jerusalem also refers to the Church, the new Jerusalem, the new city of the people of God. So really, it refers to all of us, and so, in a way, this prophecy can and should be spoken about us also. In this verse, the word ‘glory’ is used twice- ‘the glory of the Lord shines upon you’ and then ‘over you appears His glory’. When I first read this, knowing the context was to include you and I, I pondered what exactly is ‘glory’- we hear the word often, but rarely do we think about what it means. What is God’s glory, what exactly should shine upon us and appears over us? Intrigued, I did what every good Catholic would do, right? I went to the Church’s google, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Do you ever do that, become intrigued by something- like something you read or maybe a Church teaching- and want to learn more about it, so you do a little research in the Catechism? If you don’t, you should, there is so much more we can learn and love if we were a little more curious and investigative! Anyways, I looked up ‘glory’ in the subject index of the Catechism, read a few of the paragraph’s in which ‘glory’ is spoken of, and focused on 2 paragraphs. By the way, the numbers in the Catechism refer to paragraph numbers, not page numbers. And in case you might be wondering where I am going with this, hang with me, it really does help shine light upon Epiphany and Christmas.
In my quest to better understand ‘glory’, the paragraphs I focused on was 293 and 294. Paragraph 293 begins, “Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth; ‘The world was made for the glory of God. St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things ‘not to increase his glory, but to show forth and communicate it, for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness”. Think about that, the world was made for the glory of God. The world, all of creation- the beautiful sunsets, the majestic mountains, the vast oceans, the perfect ordering and timing of the sun and moon, every living creature, etc. etc., all of creation was made for the glory of God. And not to increase God’s glory, but to reveal or communicate it, for there is no other reason or purpose for creation than God’s love and goodness. The eternal unbegotten God did not need to create anything, but God created simply because he wanted to communicate his goodness and love. Everything that is good in the world, including you and I, reflects who God is. Scripture and Church doctrine- known as the Transcendentals, reveal that God is truth, goodness, beauty, unity, and love in Himself. Therefore, everything that is one, true, good, and beautiful in the world is a resemblance, a reflection of who God is. And so, our existence, our ability to love, and ability to know what is true, good, and beautiful is a gift from God. Yes, every good thing that we have, is because of God’s sheer goodness. Of course, the glory of God is perfectly made manifest at Christmas, when God fully communicated his love when he sent His only Son into the world. There is no more perfect revelation and communication of God’s truth, goodness, and love than by Him becoming one with his creation to save us. For Jesus is not just a resemblance or reflection of who God is, but Jesus is the full, complete, and perfect image- Jesus is the Son of God. It is for this reason that the Angels sang at the birth in the manger, “Glory to God in the Highest”. Indeed, God’s glory was manifested, who God is is manifested most perfectly, in God-become-man. And so, when we think of ‘God’s glory’, we can think of it as God’s communication and revelation of Himself and His plan of salvation for his fallen creatures. Therefore, God’s glory is the truth of what God has done, that God who is good and beauty has communicated and revealed Himself.
But there’s more to God’s glory, remember our 1st reading says, ‘the glory of the Lord shines upon you’ and ‘over you appears His glory’. Therefore, God’s glory is not only found in what God does, but also in what we- his creation- does. God’s creation gives God glory, that is creation also communicates and reflects God’s goodness. Scripture proclaims that all of creation gives God glory just by their existence. The beauty and life of the trees, the waves of the ocean, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea- all of creation gives glory to God just by them being and doing what God made them to do. But, my brothers and sisters, if all the rest of creation gives God glory simply by doing what they were made to do, how much more can we, we who have free will and can choose for ourselves what we do, how much more can we give God glory, how much more can we manifest God’s goodness by what we choose? Listen now to the next paragraph, paragraph 294 of the Catechism; “The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness”. The glory of God is best lived out when we realize and recognize the truth and goodness of God. Think about how many people go through life without even recognizing the beauty all around them, or how many people go through life taking for granted all the good things they have, and not even consider giving back as gift what they have been given- like the Magi did? So many of us can take our existence and the goodness in and of our lives for granted, without even thinking or recognizing that it is all because of God’s sheer goodness and love. So, I ask you, do you recognize God’s goodness and does God’s glory shine upon you in your everyday life?
Let’s go a little deeper and look at paragraph 294 which quotes Ephesians, “God made us ‘to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace’. My brothers and sisters, the Church Father’s teach us that in this and every Christmas season, we celebrate the fact that, ‘God became man so that man can become like God’. It is by God’s sheer goodness not only that that God made humanity to not just resemble Him like the rest of creation does, but to become His children, a perfect image and likeness of Himself. And so God’s glory and goodness is even further revealed and communicated when God chose to become human in order to save us what we had lost, so that we can then choose to be child and image of God. Therefore, not only was God’s glory and goodness communicated when God created, but also when God wanted and made it possible for the Magi, and all of humanity, to see and encounter Him. But we see even more glory, even more of God’s goodness and love is communicated, when the Magi recognized the star, followed it to encounter the Christ-child, and then further glory was given as they gave homage, worshipped, and gave gifts to testify to His Kingship and Lordship over their lives. The Magi gave glory to God and revealed the Father’s goodness when they recognized themselves as His children, and their utter dependence on God’s goodness and generosity, and then by their homage, worship, and giving of gifts proclaimed His Lordship over their lives. Therefore, God’s glory shines upon us when we humble ourselves, and recognize His goodness and Lordship over our lives.
Finally, let me conclude our reflection of the meaning of God’s glory with one last line from paragraph 294 of the Catechism, this time quoting St. Irenaeus: “The glory of God is man fully alive; moreover, when man’s life is the vision of God”. It is when our lives become the vision of God, and who God made you and I to be; it is when our lives testify of God’s sheer goodness. When we acknowledge our utter dependence upon His goodness and grace as his child, and when we humbly submit to God’s will and plan for our salvation, and His Lordship over our lives, do we become fully alive. And by us becoming fully alive, fully who God made us to be, then God’s glory and goodness is revealed all the more in us. That is the goal of our Christian life. So, I ask you, are you fully alive? As we conclude this Christmas season, with this celebration of Epiphany let us choose to become more of who God made us to be- His children communicating God’s sheer goodness, and by doing so, we will give God glory and become more fully alive.BACK TO LIST