An Epiphany of Love

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They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD. (Is 60:6)

This verse is found at the end of our first reading from this past Sunday, the Feast of the Epiphany. It clearly is meant to be read in the context of the Gospel reading:

They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Mt 2:11)

Epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning “appearance” or “manifestation.” How glorious an event! The King of Kings appears, dwelling among man. What should our response be? The magi give us a hint: they prostrated themselves before Him and offered Him gifts.

Gifting is such a central theme during this season, and it is very appropriate. God is the giver of all things. Even our very existence is a gift from Him. He not only preserves our existence, but even when we betray and oppose Him, He sends us His only Son to save us. This is the greatest gift of all. This is exactly what we celebrate during this joyous season of Christmas.

So how can we respond when Almighty God sends us such an invaluable gift? He is all powerful and all perfect, lacking in nothing, and yet He emptied himself and took human nature to die for us and redeem us. Moreover, we did nothing to earn this gift. True gifts are freely given. It was a free expression of His boundless love for us. We did not pay for it; we only receive it, giving thanks in return. Indeed, the theological concept of grace is tied up with the idea of a gift, freely (gratis) given.

Ever since I was a child, gift giving was so intimately tied to my idea of Christmas. While there is a definite danger of secularizing Christmas into a materialistic holiday, I think the tradition of gift giving can potentially teach us an important lesson: to love. This turning away from ourselves and towards another is a prerequisite for gift giving.

The most important thing about gift giving is the love it conveys. We naturally want to share the good things we experience with those whom we love. Gift giving seems to me to be a prime way of us becoming like God, who is not solitary, but a community of three persons united in love.

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12)

If we indeed love one another in the way He has modeled for us in Jesus, we just might experience a sort of Epiphany—a manifestation of God—within ourselves!

Br. Francis Dominic Nguyen, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE