On Sunday 3rd January, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, we remembered the first manifestation of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, and we heard how the Wise Men, guided by a star, travelled to Bethlehem; there, falling to their knees, they did the Lord homage and ‘offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh’. Those gifts honour Christ as King, Priest and Prophet.
Last Sunday, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we remembered his second manifestation, when he was once again revealed as the Christ, the Anointed One, this time in the River Jordan, when the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove and a voice came from heaven to say ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on you’.
It also gave us the opportunity to remember our own Baptism, when the gifts that the Wise Men offered the Lord were returned to us in the sacrament of rebirth, and we were made sharers in Jesus’ mission as Prophet, Priest and King. We are called to proclaim his Gospel in our words and actions, offer ourselves as a living sacrifice of praise, and serve him in our brothers and sisters. And to help us to do this, we too were anointed with the Oil of Holy Chrism, and so are also, like Jesus, anointed ones, consecrated, set apart, to be his presence in this world in which we live.
Writing to St Titus, St Paul reminds us of why God gave us the gift of Baptism: ‘When the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing waters of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ’.
It is by the mercy of God, then, that we have been brought to rebirth and made sharers in Jesus’ mission as Prophet, Priest and King, symbolised by the Wise Men and given to us in Baptism. Just as the wise men opened their treasures and offered them to the Lord, he opens his spiritual treasures and offers them to us, out of his compassion and for our salvation. Let us not only accept everything that the Lord offers us in his Church, but share them with others. If we have received such mercy and compassion from God, how much more should we offer it to those whom we meet?
–Father Andrew Cole – Bishop’s Private Secretary and Chaplain to the University of Nottingham