Jan 7; Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord 2018

We have just finished Christmas and with that we settled theEpiphany
question of how many Masses to attend that would fulfil both
the 4th Sunday of Advent and the Christmas duty. Are we not
relieved and grateful that 6th Jan is not a day of obligation,
for otherwise we would have to attend Mass yesterday and
today? Canon 1246§1 lists Epiphany one of 10 holy days of
obligation but, thankfully, in a nod to convenience, the
Apostolic See has allowed quite a few to be transferred to a
Sunday which is what we have done—killing two birds with one
stone. 


Epiphany is a solemnity of revelation. What we call Epiphany,
the Eastern Churches would term as Theophany. The
difference between them is that Epiphany is generic as it
denotes a revelation from above whereas Theophany is more
specific as it focuses on the revelation from God. The 6th of
January was the “Christmas” of the early Christians especially
of the Church in the East because the date commemorates for
them, the Nativity of the Lord, the Visitation of the Magi, the
Baptism of Christ and the Wedding of Cana. Only at the
Council of Tours did Christmas get separated from Epiphany
and much later, the rest—Baptism and Wedding at Cana got
their own celebrations leaving the 6th of January primarily
centred on the Visitation of the Magi.
The Gentiles have come searching for the newborn Child.
What do they hope to accomplish and what can we learn from
them? One observation is that the Epiphany is not a
celebration of diversity even though the appearance of the multi-hued Magi seems to suggest that diversity has indeed
arrived. 


What is it then, if it is not a “feast of diversity”?
To better appreciate the Epiphany, it might be profitable to
survey the myths surrounding diversity. In campuses of some
“enlightened” societies, political correctness, gender wars
and nihilism have taken roots in the name of diversity.
Coupled with this notion, a trigger word we ought to embrace
is tolerance.
In a context of multi-culturalism and multi-religiosity, is that
not an important concept to embrace? In our country, we
definitely know what it means when people are intolerant. If
diversity, which expresses the richness of God’s creation, is a
given, how do we live in harmony? How do we behave in a
manner which is human, in other words, how can we be moral
beings?


Firstly, in the quest for social cohesion, which is a moral
endeavour, there is a prevailing mistaken belief that man is
inherently good. And through reason, he can be persuaded to
be good. As such, there is a temptation to banish religions
understood to be the cause of many strife. The notion of
progress appears to exclude religion and many progressive
countries have somewhat banished it, have they not? The
result is pretty simple. Religion is, at best considered as
superstition, and at worst believed to be emotional
intolerance, is therefore incapable of leading us to reasoned
truth. If religious truth is banished, because religion is
defective, then the rise of relativism and indifferentism is
inevitable as we shall see later.
Secondly, the idea of “toleration” actually came about
through the experiences of the “confessional” states. England
and France are two such examples with England being

Anglican and France being Catholic. As their societies
progressed, the civil authorities began to tolerate the
minorities who do not profess the state’s creed. Taking the
confessional states’ experiences, what does tolerate amount
to? It means that we put up with those who do not really
conform to what we accept to be true. Therefore, when we
“tolerate”, we are primarily stating that we hold to
something to be true, but we can also live with those who are
in error. This sense of “tolerance” still bears with it a
recognition that there is truth.
However, you can detect the fledgling bud of indifferentism
and relativism once tolerance is no longer anchored to the
truth. If you dwell on this, is that not why diversity and
acceptance can flourish? However, indiscriminate diversity or
tolerance does not hold water because somewhere along the
way, one has to draw a line between what conduct is
acceptable and what might is considered insanity or a crime.
If we were to hold on to the principle of tolerance and stretch
it to its logical conclusion, parading Kevin Spacey and Harvey
Weinstein before you, would have totally disabuse you of the
notion that tolerance is a virtue we should embrace. You can
already discern the outline of truth here.
The tyranny of indiscriminate tolerance means we must give
in to the reigning fads. It has been used as a bullying tool
against those who do not subscribe to the majority’s view.
How? Even if you have not watched “The Greatest Showman”,
you will understand what I am trying to say. In the musical
based on the life of PT Barnum, there is a bearded woman
and she sings an ode to the current fad: “This is me”. Into the
mix, there is a message which stands against bullying but in
totality, it is a declaration that the world ought to accept her
as she is. We should stand against bullying but again, when
this notion of acceptance pushed to its logical conclusion, it
becomes a problematic. If a man declares himself a murderer
and that is him, should the world not accept him as he is?

To accept what is different is an expression of nobility. In a
world of tolerance, dogmatism (which is another word for
judgemental people) should be banished in the name of
diversity. However, in the name of diversity, do I have the
right to be bad? You might be thinking, “Of course not. How
stupid can you be”? Yet, do you realise that people cannot
smoke they want to. I do not smoke and yet I know how
smokers feel. And how come I cannot eat sharks fin in the
name of tolerance or diversity? In other words, for some
people, it is alright to be different but not for others. Where
is the logic there?
Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his famous soliloquy asked “To be or
not to be?” which in the context of tolerance today is a wrong
question. To be tolerant or not is not an issue. The big fat
elephant in the room, and I do not mean Fr Michael, is “What
shall I tolerate?”. And this is no longer a question of morality
but rather a question of might. Who has the stronger power
will decide what is to be accepted in the name of diversity.
Our conundrum is that we recognise that lines need to be
drawn, the problem is who should draw them or where should
they be drawn. The way things are, it is those who wield
power, and the prophetic stand is to hold on to the truth and
not allowed oneself to be cowed by the tyranny of “absolute”
diversity, tolerance and acceptance.


Coming back to the mistaken myth that we are inherently
good, the desire to be good even though it is a godly desire, is
not good enough. At the heart of understanding who we are,
stands also the question of how we should be and that takes
us into the moral realm. Thus, the Wise Men came searching,
not for an object, not even for a priceless treasure but for
Him so their morality, that is, how to be human, might be
given a firm standing. Perhaps we should take a leaf from
them.

Diversity, tolerance or acceptance are never absolutes in
themselves. Whilst they may help us in the social project of
building peaceful societies, they must be founded on truths
which are eternal. According to Pope Leo LXIII, “The things of
earth cannot be understood or valued aright without taking
into consideration the life to come, the life that will know no
death. Exclude the idea of futurity, and forthwith the very
notion of what is good and right would perish; nay, the whole
scheme of the universe would become a dark and
unfathomable mystery”.


Epiphany is not a politically correct celebration of diversity,
acceptance and tolerance. Rather it is an anthropological
quest—man’s search for who he is and who he is supposed to
be. It may have started from where he is but it does not end
there. Epiphany represents Man’s search for the Divine and
that this search is not putative but rather graceful and
fruitful. The anthropological search for God has found an
answer in Jesus Christ. He is the light that shines on us so that
we may know who God is and who we truly are. To be who he
really is, man needs more than acceptance, tolerance and
diversity.  In other words, Epiphany represents Man’s
perennial hunger for light of truth to shine upon his path so
that he can be what God has created him to be—a creature
graced by truth, beauty and goodness.