Jan. 6, 2019

THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, 2019

THE NEED TO SEARCH FOR JESUS WITH OUR GIFTS

Readings: 1st- Is. 60: 1-6; 2nd- Eph. 3:2-3a, 5-6; Gospel- Matt. 2:1-12

Strange elements in the epiphany help to communicate the reality of God’s existence to us. We see the Magi from the gentile territory, the star that leads them, and their special gifts for the infant Jesus. The Magi’s statement on arriving Jerusalem is, “We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Matt. 2:2-3). From that point onwards, a lot began to unfold. Herod is troubled, feels threatened, and goes into panic attack. He summons his cabinet and conducts series of interview to know about this new king. Herod’s intention is to do away with the infant-king. He pretends to be in favor of this child and tells the Magi, “Go and search for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” That is the height of sarcasm, humanity tries to mock divinity. However, the Magi receive a warning in their dream to return from a different route after visiting the infant Jesus. 

Few questions might be asked in the gospel of today regarding the epiphany of Christ: Why do these wise men abandon everything to search for Jesus? How are these wise men able to see and notice something unnoticed by so many others? Why would they give gifts to the infant Jesus? 

It is clear that the Magi take great risk. They set out on a long journey with the goal to discover the newborn king. They abandon their safety, home, and comforts to visit Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah declares about Jerusalem in the first reading, “Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” The visit of the Magi fulfills the prophecy of the Lord. They do him homage.                                                                             

The Magi teach us to search for Jesus with everything we possess. From their experience, we learn that the search for Jesus is not always easy. Sometimes, those who search for Jesus encounter the likes of Herod who are uncomfortable with religion, those who see the worship of God as meaningless. Most Herods might occupy powerful positions in the society or in the family. Sometimes, the Herods are capable of deciding our fate. The Herods make the search for Jesus tough. In Saint Paul’s case, he encountered a certain Alexander the Coppersmith who opposed every bit of the truth of the gospel (cf. 2 Tim. 4:14). However, God shows his supremacy by guiding us in safe directions. God does not abandon his own. He guides us in the right path because he is true to his name. That is why he appeared to the Magi in the dream and led them safely through a different route unknown to Herod. 

The second question is how the Magi are able to see the star which is not visible to so many others. We can connect that to Christ’s prayer in the gospel which goes this way, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the leaned and the clever and revealing them to mere children” (Matt. 11:25). What “things” would God not reveal to the learned and the clever? They are the mysteries of God’s kingdom. The learned and the clever refer to the proud and arrogant. Mary’s Magnificat says, “He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Lk. 1:51-52). Herod represents the proud and arrogant who cannot see the star. The Magi represent mere children, the simple of heart who are guided by the star of God’s wisdom. They see what the “mighty” and arrogant Herod cannot see. 

However, God’s signs are visible in the dark. The famous Christmas song says, “Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright.” The Magi’s star radiates in the silence of the night leading them to the divine encounter with the infant King. The night is when the noise of words and the frenzy of the daytime diminishes. It is a time when God’s voice becomes loud and clear. God’s light shines brightly in the silence of the night. Cardinal Sarah writes in his book, The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise, “There is a language of the stars that we can neither know nor comprehend but that God understands perfectly” (p.88). The star represents God’s presence in both the cosmic darkness and the darkness of our souls. Only the light of God’s love can illumine those dark spots.

The Magi followed their star diligently. We must follow our own star. We must identify with to follow our star. I believe that each person’s star is different. This star can also disappear if we succumb to the Herod, if we submit to the darkness of societal pressures. As soon as the Magi stop over at Herod’s place, they seize seeing their star. Pride and arrogance can quench the star in us. The star in us is sustained by simplicity of heart and by constant recognition of the need to look unto God as its source.    

Finally, the Magi offer the infant king great gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold expresses Christ’s kingship, frankincense expresses his priesthood, while myrrh shows the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death. The Magi are gentiles, yet they recognize Christ’s kingship and make donations to him. That is what the Epiphany represents, the revelation of the universal kingship of Christ. The prophet Isaiah says, “Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Is. 60:6). Saint Paul reminds us that “the gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). What gifts do we offer to Jesus? If gentiles could recognize him and offer him generous gifts, how much more believers like us? Do we merely grumble and refuse to give to the church? Do we pay him enough homage with the things God has given to us? Do we sufficiently support the course of the gospel with our donation? Do we appreciate everyone as members of Christ’s body despite their racial or ethnic background?