The solemnity of the Epiphany explains the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles. Saint Paul describes it as “the stewardship of God’s grace,” namely, that the mystery of Christ is revealed in human flesh. We celebrate in the Epiphany the expansion of the good news just as Simeon sang in the Nunc Dimittis, “the Light to enlighten the Gentiles and to give glory to your people Israel” (Lk. 2:32). Strange elements in the gospel help to communicate this reality about God’s existence. The Magi are strangers who visit from a far distance, with the star leading them. They present special gifts to the infant Jesus. Their mission in Jerusalem is clear, “We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Matt. 2:2-3).
The story of the Magi’s visit touch greatly on King Herod’s powerful plans to eliminate the infant Jesus. But underneath the entire narrative is the revelation of God’s power. Herod’s plotting is no match to God’s design. Herod and his cohorts consider themselves as leading members of the Jewish establishment who run the show at their whims and caprice. They determine who rules. They eliminate perceived opposition and silence the vulnerable. Anyone who stands in their away is considered a threat and deserves annihilation.
In similar cases, we see threats against religion and faith, sometimes orchestrated by the so-called powerful men and women in politics. However, God leads the Magi away in a mysterious way and hides the infant king from the reach of Herod. Rather than political insiders, the establishment recognizing and paying homage to the newborn babe, God grants the privilege to foreigners “from the east.” The Magi have the privilege of presenting the great gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Scripture says, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger” (Ps. 8:2).
The Magi are men of great learning (from the Greek word 'magos' where the English word 'magic' comes from), a derivative from the title given to priests in a sect of the ancient Persian religions such as Zoroastrianism, what today would be called astrologers. The magi would have studied the patterns of the stars. These pagan astronomers view this star as a sign from God or a higher power as they understand it. They could have rejected or ignored the sign but they were looking for God. They were trying to find Him. The story of Epiphany of Jesus is so beautiful because foreigners, pagans, gentiles teach us that we must diligently search for Jesus. It teaches us to not be distracted by what political authorities do, especially when they act like Herod, threatening the faith and the spread of the gospel.
The Magi’s star radiates in the silence of the night leading them to the divine encounter with the infant King. God does not contradict science, rather He is the reason for the galaxies and for scientific innovations. Both astronomy and astrology get their meaning through God. To deny God’s existence is a sign of the lack of proper understanding of the origin of the universe. It is the proof of ignorance about the source of reality. The Psalm says, “Only fools say in their hearts, There is no God. They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” (14:1) Herod is unable to do good because he lacks wisdom to see the star. Goddetermines the number of the stars and calls them each by name (Ps. 147:4). God’s star illumines both the cosmic darkness and the darkness of our souls. You must ask God to Illumine the star in your soul and to guide you to the good, the beautiful, and the truth. His grace leads to all positive actions. Pride and arrogance quench the star in us, but simplicity of heart and constancy in seeking God’s will keep our stars visible and aglow. Pray God to kindle the fire of his love in your heart.
We can search for Jesus in the sacraments. We can devoutly respond to the hunger for God through reconciliation and forgiveness in the confession. We desire him in our hearts when we extend our tongues and our hands to receive the Blessed Eucharist. Furthermore, we search for Jesus in the downtrodden, homeless, displaced, and strangers. With the Psalm we should pray, “Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me” (Ps. 27:8-9).
Recognize this! Jesus is on the altar. It is the same Jesus who dwelled in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the same Jesus that the Blessed Mother took to John the Baptist, same Jesus that the shepherds went in haste to see, the same Jesus that the wise men travelled hundreds of miles to adore. It is the Lord Jesus who sacrificed his life for the salvation of the human race. The Magi “prostrated themselves and did him homage.” The Psalms invite us, “O come let us adore Him.” When you bend your knees at mass, you bend them to the same Jesus. Jesus is real, not a symbol. He is truly present with us in His Body and Blood. He stays quiet and watches, but He sees beyond our imagination. St Padre Pio once said, “It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” Do you recognize Him? Does your heart burn for the Blessed Eucharist like those disciples on the road to Emmaus?
As we start off the new year, it will be great to think about ways to show commitment in the search for Jesus. How would you describe your attitude before now? Has your experience been smooth or rough, full of obstacles or free? Any hindrances on the way, in your marriage, from family, or at work? And how has God shown himself through those events and activities? What has seen you through so far? Remember, as the steward of God’s grace, do not give up. There’s no neutral ground in the spiritual life. You are either moving forward or moving backwards. You’re either moving closer to God or moving farther away from Him. The Magi moved closer and would not let anything take their attention away from Jesus. They focused on the star. Herod, on the other hand became usurped by the quest for power and got farther away. He sank deeper in his arrogance, melancholy, and frustration.
How can you follow this star? He shows himself in the Blessed Sacrament. Maybe increase your devotion to the Blessed Eucharist. He extends his hands of mercy. Enhance your habit of going to Confession. He is on the faces of the poor. Demonstrate charity to the homeless and the poor. Become the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, sweet smelling sacrificial offering to Jesus through your beautiful actions of service. God’s grace of stewardship abides in hearts that search for Jesus.
Readings: 1st- Is. 60: 1-6; 2nd- Eph. 3:2-3a, 5-6; Gospel- Matt. 2:1-12