From a youngster on, I always loved Epiphany (aka Three Kings). Prior to the reforms of Vatican II, this feast was always celebrated on January 6. We moved the figures of the Magi and their servants and camels gradually throughout the house until they arrived in Bethlehem and offered their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They represented many nations who came to adore the Newborn King. It was the day to use blessed chalk which I received at mass at St. Hyacinth’s and mark the calendar year and the initials K + M+ B over the doorways. My grandmother, whom we affectionately called Nanie, lived upstairs from us. She belonged to St. Josaphat Basilica and the parish priest would come during the Christmas/Epiphany season with an acolyte to bless her apartment for the New Year and receive a small gift. The Christmas story expanded beyond the shepherds to remind us, as St. Paul says in the second reading for today, “that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6)
As an adult, I now see that the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem was in fulfillment of the promises of old that all the nations would bring their gifts to the Lord. All peoples are acceptable to the Lord and belong to the same human family. King Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” were greatly troubled by the news that the Magi brought of the newborn king. Already in his infancy Jesus was challenging the status quo of his religious heritage to remind people of God’s eternal plan. While we do not use the term Gentile, we still make distinctions about certain people and groups among us. The mood in our country and the world is one of fear and anxiety, fueled by recent terrorist attacks. There is a growing Islamaphobia directed at those of the Muslim faith. Both our United States Catholic Bishops and the Wisconsin Council of Churches have spoken out against such an attitude. We are asked to have respectful discourse in our public life, providing hospitality to the stranger and standing in support of people of other faiths when they are misjudged or mistreated.
Enjoy this special Solemnity with a King cake and special songs. Mark the lintel of each door in the house with chalk and the initials 20 + K + M + B +16. Bless your house with holy water. Let us begin the New Year with open doors, open hearts, open arms and mercy for all.
Blessings for the New Year 2016!
Fr. Mike Michalski