The magi follow the star.

God’s manifestation to save all

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Epiphany means manifestation. On this Sunday, the Church invites us to celebrate God’s universal plan to save all people – Jews as well as Gentiles.


Pause for a moment and listen to one of the songs:


O Light of Lights, you showed forth the light of God’s love to all nations. In your coming, God’s saving love is revealed from east to west. You have made us co-heirs and sharers in the promise of salvation. Illuminate our minds and hearts with your love. May we, like the Magi, always seek and search for you. Enlighten us as we contemplate your Word today. We pray in your light and in your love. Amen.

Lector's Notes by Greg Warnusz

Ask your presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):

Before the first reading:

When the Jews began slowly to return from exile in Babylon, their capital Jerusalem was desolate. The prophet encourages them with images of brightness, then surprises them with the prediction that they will attract pagan nations to God.

After the psalm, before the second reading:

Even Jewish converts to Christ maintained the ancient belief that Jews were God’s only chosen people. Paul says God has now revealed a long-secret mystery, namely that Gentiles, too, are to enjoy God’s favor, because of Christ.

Before the gospel acclamation:

Today’s gospel reinterprets the first reading’s themes of light and of pagans bearing gifts, applying them not to the city Jerusalem, but to Jesus.

Courtesy of Greg Warnusz,



ISA 60:1-6

The Flight of the Prisoners, c. 1896-1902, Jewish Museum, New York, NY, depicts the Israelites fleeing Jerusalem and being exiled to Babylon in the sixth century B.C. Isaiah 60:1-13 was fulfilled during the return of the Jews from Babylon seventy years later.

Hope for the returning exiles

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

This reading is from Third Isaiah (chs 56-66). Our post-Babylonia exile prophet seeks to offer hope to the returned exiles who are dealing with a demolished land and city. He seeks to encourage them as they embark on rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.

“Rise up Jerusalem! Your Light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.”

The life of the returned exiles was extremely difficult.

“See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the people.”

God is still with his chosen people.

“Upon you the Lord shines and over you appears his glory.”

This light of God will draw nations to Jerusalem just as the Star drew the Magi to Bethlehem.

Caravans of camels shall cover you, dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and heralding the praises of the LORD. — Isa 60:6 (NAB)

Lector's Notes by Greg Warnusz

Proclaiming It: So how shall you proclaim this? Remember Isaiah was speaking to beaten-down people engaged in a frustrating struggle. How would the prophet have used his voice in encouraging them? Also, be sure to contrast the Judeans (“you”) with the others, who are described as “the peoples” and “nations” and “they all.” The description of the wealth arriving in Jerusalem should find you sounding awe-struck.

Courtesy of Greg Warnusz,



PS 72

Fresco (1860) by Carl Gottfried Pfannschmidt showing king David with quotation of Psalm 72:11: “May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.” Saint Mary church. Barth (Western Pomerania).

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you,” speaks of God’s universal plan to save all people, thereby connecting this psalm to the overall theme of this Sunday’s readings.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him. — Ps 72:10-11 (NAB)




EPH 3:2-3, 5-6

Mural of Saint Paul the Apostle inside a Greek Orthodox Church

Paul’s mission to the Gentiles

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Paul’s message about his special mission to bring the Good News to the Gentiles connects this reading with the general theme of the day. Jesus reveals to Paul and the Apostles that the total equality of Jews and Gentiles figures in God’s plan of salvation.

The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. — Eph 3:6 (NAB)

Lector's Notes by Greg Warnusz

Proclaiming It: To proclaim this in a way faithful to Paul’s intention, you have to emphasize “mystery” and “revelation” in the first sentence, then “Gentiles“, “coheirs“, and “copartners” in the last sentence. An unprepared listener hearing you should get an idea like this, “There was an in group and an out group, and then Jesus came, revealing God’s plan to invite the outsiders inside.”

Courtesy of Greg Warnusz,




MT 2:1-12

Adoration of the Magi (1410) at Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. (Web Gallery of Art)

The journey all seekers must take

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

The Gospel is the fulfillment of the first reading, which speaks of all the nations streaming to Jerusalem bearing gifts for the new King. The Magi represent the non-Jewish world who are seekers of God in their own way.

The Magi’s journey to Bethlehem in search of the new King is symbolic of the journey all seekers must take. Thus, Epiphany is not only a feast on which we celebrate God’s manifestation of himself to the Gentile world, but also our movement toward God.

When Matthew is writing his Gospel in 80AD, his own people have almost totally rejected Jesus while large groups of Gentiles are accepting him. This rejection/acceptance dynamic is present in today’s Gospel. While Herod’s plot to kill Jesus symbolizes Israel’s rejection of Jesus, the Magi’s acceptance of Jesus symbolizes the Gentiles’ movement toward Jesus. This rejection/acceptance dynamic will be played out many times in Matthew’s Gospel. While the Pharisees will close their hearts to Jesus, the Gentiles will open their hearts to him.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. — Mt 2:10-11 (NAB)

Pope Francis Quote

Expect the newness God brings

“We often make do with looking at the ground: it’s enough to have our health, a little money and a bit of entertainment. I wonder if we still know how to look up at the sky. Do we know how to dream, to long for God, to expect the newness he brings, or do we let ourselves be swept along by life, like dry branches before the wind?!”

SOURCE: 2016-Epiphany Homily




Discussion questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

The following questions are designed for small faith sharing groups where time may be limited.

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention? Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?

2. The Magi symbolize our search for God and meaning in life. What gives meaning to your life? Has some recent discovery or new passion brought new meaning and depth to your life?

3. In the Epiphany, Jesus is manifested to the Magi and Gentile world. Can you name a recent epiphany experience in your life, a recent discovery?

4. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

In-Depth Discussion Questions (by Anne Osdieck)

Responding to the Word

Suggestions on ways to act:

1. What is one thing you can do or change to be a brighter light for Christ?

3. Name one person you can be the light of Christ for in word or deed.


Having listened to God’s Word and listened to others’ reflections on it, take a quiet moment to reflect on what you are hearing God say to you. Your response will be what you bring to Eucharist on Sunday, asking Jesus to help you respond as he asks of you. When ready, jot down your reflections.

Praying with the Word

Lord, this week give me many opportunities to share your light and help me to do it generously, eagerly and well.

Copyright © 2019. Joe Milner; For more intercessions go to the Sunday Web Site at Saint Louis University.

For the Church: that, through our words and deeds, we may be a Light to those who are searching for direction and a sign of hope for those seeking to begin again…

For greater trust: that, like the Wise Men, God’s Light may guide us through the unknown of the coming days as we rely more deeply on God’s love and care for us…

For a deeper awareness of our gifts and talents: that like the magi, we may offer all our gifts to God and use them in the service of God’s reign…

For those bound by fear: that God will free their spirits, help them to trust God’s providence and open a vision of the future for them…


Closing prayer

Lord Jesus, you continue to come into the world as light that pushes back the darkness. Continue to enlighten our minds and hearts, opening them to receive you in whatever way you come to us. Help us to find you in our daily lives by removing whatever prevents our seeing your light.


When the song
of the angels is stilled
When the starin the sky is gone
When the kings and princes are home
When shepherds are backwith their flocks
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lostTo heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the captives
To rebuild nations
To bring peace among peoples
To make music in the heart.

– Howard Thurman




Each week Kevin Aldrich, a veteran Catholic educator who teaches high school theology and English, offers a doctrinal and practical formation perspective to each week’s scripture readings under the following headings:

Central idea:

The Epiphany of the Redeemer


The Church is the sacrament of human unity.

Practical application:

Prayer for Christian unity.

You can read more of what Kevin Aldrich has to say at Homily Doctrine Outlines


This Sunday’s themes

from Homiletic Directory

the Epiphany

CCC 528, 724

Christ the Light of Nations

CCC 280, 529, 748, 1165, 2466, 2715, 2715

the Church, sacrament of human unity

CCC 60, 442, 674, 755, 767, 774-776, 781, 831

Lectionary Readings:

Second Reading:

Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 (CCC 1066)


Matthew 2:1-12 (CCC 486); 2:1 (CCC 528); 2:2 (CCC 439, 528); 2:4-6 (CCC 528); 2:11 (CCC 724); 2:13-18 (CCC 530); 2:13 (CCC 333); 2:15 (CCC 530)

NOTE: The above paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church resonate with this week’s biblical readings. They have been chosen because they cite or allude to the specific readings, or because they treat topics found in the readings.

Catechism Table of Contents

Catechism Index

TIP: Increase the font size of catechism text by adjusting your browser’s settings for the mobile friendly website. Once you do this it will keep your settings. These settings only apply to the catechism website.

Commentary Text: ©2019 Fr. Eamon Tobin, Commentaries & Faith Sharing PDF Handout.
Songs, photos of artwork, videos and scripture verses are curated by They do not necessarily reflect Fr. Tobin’s opinions or preferences.
Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission.
Intercession starters: Copyright © 2019. Joe Milner; visit The Sunday Web Site at Saint Louis University for a whole lot more.
Catechism links go to mobile friendly site at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Copyright permission for posting of the English translation of the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH on the web site was granted by Amministrazione Del Patrimonio Della Sede Apostolica, case number 130389.
Share this page: