ON THIS SUNDAY, THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY, we hear that word “Epiphany” and we know what the feast of the “Epiphany” involves with the visit to Jesus of the three wise men. But what does the term “Epiphany” mean? “Epiphany” finds its roots in a word that means “manifestation.” The Christ Child is manifested not only to Jewish shepherds, but to Gentile wise men — the Magi. And the story of the Magi reveals to us important symbolism, such as the significance of the gifts presented to Jesus, and God’s desire to make Himself known not only to the Jewish people, but to all people – every man, woman and child. The Magi’s quest to find our blessed Lord also demonstrates an often overlooked lesson: the importance of using one’s faith and reason to know and to love Jesus better. The Magi probably weren’t kings, but wise men trained in the science of the stars. They probably were persons of means, since they had time to study the stars and didn’t have to concern themselves with the affairs of earning a daily wage. Their interest in the star that appeared in the East reveals to us the complementary nature of faith and reason. The Magi are drawn to Bethlehem in two ways. First, they are drawn by intellectual curiosity — they want to learn more about the star they had studied. Second, and more importantly, they are drawn by faith. Rather than simply study the star, they bring gifts to adore the newborn king, in an act of faith. This natural hierarchy that places faith above reason reminds us that objects of faith are more certain than objects of reason. That is why we can say that the articles of the Creed which we will profess momentarily are even more certain than the simple proposition of 2+2=4. Why? Consider the source. God is the source and object of divine revelation, which the articles of the Catholic Faith express. Meanwhile, math equations are only propositions of the human mind, which are a far less reliable source of information and truth. And yet, the empiricist philosopher tells us to believe that “x” can only be true if it can be proven. Conversely, faith can’t be true since it cannot be calculated. Thus, one’s faith is no better than one’s opinion — a merely private intellectual musing. The classic Catholic position teaches the opposite. It says, “If God is the source of the proposition, then it MUST be true, and in fact more certain than anything the human mind can fathom on its own, because God can neither deceive nor be deceived.” Unfortunately, most persons in the West are taught to think, “If I can’t prove it, it’s probably not true” — or in moral terms, “If I don’t understand or agree with the Church’s teaching, the teaching is probably flawed and thereby does not bind me to obey.” St. Anselm contradicted this line of thought by asserting, “I believe so that I may understand.” Keep in mind that for Catholics, faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they should be thought of as two wings of the same bird lifting us up to discover and ponder the holy face of God. Folks, we live in a continuously growing age of skepticism. Where the secularization of society makes faith and reason false opposites, the Magi teach us to appreciate the relationship between faith and reason. Why? Because we have the capacity to use both gifts to understand better our God as He is, not Who we want to make Him out to be so as to satisfy our curiosity or sense of security. Let’s not get too big for our britches. Let’s not get caught up in the string of letters we may have behind our names, or embrace the mindset that I am a sophisticated, modern, progressive person. Let us simply heed the example of the Magi who were driven by faith and reason, and as a result were filled with true joy and happiness when they discovered the Holy Family in Bethlehem, led by the star.
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