FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
The Epiphany of the Lord (B)
Isaiah 60:1-6 | Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13 | Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6 | Matthew 2:1-12
Originally, there were seven kings from the Orient but only three made it to Bethlehem to pay homage to the King of kings as reported in Matthew 2:1-12. One was led by another star to New York and became Burger King. Another reached Beijing and became Chowking, and the last two found their way to Manila to become Tapa King and Goto King!
Today we celebrate the Epiphany or Solemnity of our Lord's Manifestation. Epiphany is a fancy word meaning "to shine forth" or "to make a public appearance." The Magi represent the Gentiles —all people outside the Jewish world. On the feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate the fact that Jesus is revealed not just to the Jewish people, but also for the Gentiles and for all humanity.
The light of Christ does not discriminate. Our First reading speaks of a prophecy that was made approximately seven hundred years prior to the birth of Christ as they returned after years of captivity and entered the holy city of Jerusalem. It tells of the brilliant future of the Israelites who were humbled and put down. Isaiah prophesied that the Jewish nation would be the light of the world and that the nations of the world would come to their light. On Jesus' third appearance after his resurrection (cf. John 21:11), the apostles caught 153 fish. St. Jerome explains that it was thought at that time that there were only 153 species of fish in all the world. Hence, the disciples caught 153 fish, signifying that men of every class and time would be saved through the Gospel.This passage conveys that the light of Christ will shine on all peoples, including the Gentiles. From this point of view, all are equally God's beloved children, co heirs and co partners to live as members of the same body. His message must be made known to all the nations of the world. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19)." When you find Jesus, do not hijack and monopolize him. He wants everyone to know the whole truth and to be saved, not just those who have committed to a certain group.
When Jesus is revealed to us, we respond by offering him gifts. And so the three wise men came with their gold, incense, and myrrh. The gifts of the Magi— gold, frankincense, and myrrh — have come to be understood as symbols of Christ's royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death. They are special because in giving them, the Magi acknowledged that Jesus is going to be our Savior. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he admonishes us to be good stewards of God's graces. When Jesus is revealed to us, we respond by offering him gifts. What might we offer to show that we recognize who Jesus is? Gold is a symbol of all our possessions. A sign that we are really searching for Jesus is when we are setting aside our treasures and possessions for Jesus, ready to be given when we find him. If we haven't given up anything, we have not found Jesus yet. Generosity is a gesture of welcome and a happy encounter with Jesus. In laying GOLD before Jesus, we are saying, "I acknowledge that everything I have is yours. I put all my resources and wealth under your authority and will use them only according to your will." INCENSE is the gift of worship. In laying down this gift we promise to pray and worship God all the days of our life. How about our talents? We each have talents, talents that are unique. These are our reflections of the wonders of our God. Every one of us shares in some way the creativity of the Lord. This creativity was given to us to praise God. We need to give it back to him. Talents are not meant to be hoarded. They are meant to praise God. MYRRH symbolizes our pains and sufferings. For the follower of Christ all suffering has value when it is united to the suffering of the Lord. Our pains, sorrows, and even our deaths can become prayers for others, and ways of praising our King. In laying this gift before Jesus we are saying, "My life is yours. I want to die so that you may live your life in me. May you increase and may I decrease. Use me and my life as you will." Like the magi, we are called to bring gifts to our King: gold, incense, and myrrh. It is not futile to spend our riches, our talents, and our pains in search for Jesus. We pay a high price for it. We give these back to him because these are all His. They are His because we are His.
There must be conversion in finding Jesus. While Herod was murderously holding on, the magi were wisely letting go. Herod's unrelenting fear was the loss of his power. Herod was disturbed by the Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah. He is infamous for his ruthlessness and determination to wipe out his enemies, whether friends or family or anyone else who threatened his throne. History records that Herod murdered his best-loved wife: Mariamne the Hasmonean and three of his sons: Alexandros, Aristobulus and Antipater. It is not surprising that Herod ordered the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem in order to keep his throne secure. After worshipping the Christ child, the Magi "returned to their country by another route." According to Tradition, upon reaching back home, they preached to their brethren that the prophecy of Balaam of Mesopotamia, founding father of the Magi, about a unique star associated with Israel would accompany a future King who would rule the world, had been fulfilled (cf. Numbers 24:17-19). They stopped the study and practice of superstition, astrology, and pagan magic arts. St. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople in 400 A.D., reports that after the resurrection of Christ, St. Thomas the Apostle came to the country of these Magi, and baptized them, and associated them with him in preaching the Gospel. Upon finding God, are we willing to go back home by another way? We each have our own "favorite sins" that, for some reason, we can’t seem to shake off. Like the Magi, we are instructed to find another way to go home, that is to sin no more and avoid the occasion of sin.
On this Holy Eucharist, let us pray for the grace to walk in the ways of the Wise men. Let us begin to see every person in the human family as a son or daughter of God. Let us give back to God in gratitude for the gifts he has bestowed upon us. And finally, let us decide to change, to turn from our sins. A most blessed, glorious, and joyful Feast of the Epiphany!
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum