GOSPEL REFLECTION: EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
GOSPEL: Matthew 2:1-12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The Gospel Of The Lord/ Praise To You Lord, Jesus Christ.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. Epiphany comes from the Greek word ἐπιφάνεια or epipháneia which literally means appearance or manifestation. The name suggests that something was revealed. Something was manifested to bring enlightenment. God manifested himself in the person of Jesus. It is an important celebration in the sense that God has revealed himself to mankind. In a way, we now have a tangible understanding of who God is, in the person of Jesus.
Some people considered the story of the Magi most fascinating considering the events surrounding the nativity of our Lord Jesus. It tells us of their arduous journey in search of a child, the guidance of a star and their offering of the gifts made the story indeed fascinating. But for me, the story is profound, highly symbolical and Theological.
Who were the magi? Very little is known about them. Biblical Scholars claimed they were not kings. They were most probably astrologers or wise men. We do not know how many of them really. People assumed that they were three corresponding to the gifts they offered the baby, Jesus. We do not exactly know the country of their origin except the fact that they were from the East. They were non-Jewish people. And being non-Jewish is highly symbolical too. It reveals to us the universality of salvation that is being offered. The Magi represent the people of the world. They represent each one of us which means that salvation is for everyone.
What about the gifts? What was in the gifts? What made them significant in the story? It was a strange gift for a child. They offered him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Some people might think that the gifts were thoughtless and impractical. Normally, when we think of giving something for a newly born child, we probably consider something for the immediate use of the baby like clothing, baby foods or blankets. However, most Spiritual writers claimed that those gifts were actually appropriate considering the purpose of the gifts i.e. they came to worship. They recognized Jesus to be not an ordinary Child hence the gift to be extraordinary. We read in Matthew’s Gospel that Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’” The gifts, therefore, were meant to honor, adore and give praise to the baby Jesus. These gifts represent spiritual symbols – Gold symbolizes Jesus Kingship. Gold is precious and expensive and fit for a king. Frankincense symbolizes his priestly role. Incense was used in the Temple by priests. The smoke is like prayers that are lifted up to heaven. That sweet smelling smoke was meant to honor God. It is like our offering of praises and thanksgiving to God. And Myrrh, a prefiguring of Jesus’ death and embalming. Myrrh is an expensive perfume used to anoint the body of a deceased loved one. The fact that it would cost them to possess it only to be used to the body of the deceased loved one will show how much they honor and give importance to the departed.
The Church Father Origen said that Gold, as to a King, Myrrh as to the one who was mortal and incense, as to a God. The gifts, therefore, are Theological in nature. It tells us that Christ is King, human and divine.
The encounter with King Herod also tells us something. Herod was an evil king who killed his wife, his mother-in-law, his two brothers-in-law and murdered even his three children on suspicion that they were planning something against him. It is not surprising why the news about the birth of Jesus served as a threat to him. He wanted the child Jesus dead even to the extent of sacrificing innocent lives.
Now, these incidents tell us about the reality that many people will hate Jesus and will do anything to destroy him. But there are also many who will become faithful to him and will even sacrifice their lives for that love.
We learned many lessons from the Magi. The Magi offered Jesus the best that they could offer. Let us also do the same. What gift could we offer him?
First, the gift of a renewed and intimate relationship with Him. How could we achieve this? By knowing him deeply. Reading and contemplating the Words of God in the Scripture could help us know God intimately.
Second the gift of loving one’s neighbor., i.e. establishing better relations with other people. Learning to forgive those who have hurt us. Reconcile with them. Heal broken relationship. It’s the gift of love towards the neighbor.
Third, the gift of oneself. The gift of sincere repentance. Let us acknowledge our own sinfulness. Avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Reconcile with God. It is a gift of the purity of our hearts.
The Magi offered the Child Jesus the best that they could give. As for me, it was not gold, frankincense, and myrrh that gave more meaning and value to the gifts. It was actually the gift of their time and self that made their gifts more precious and special. Likewise, we could turn ourselves to be a precious gift when we give ourselves wholeheartedly in the service of God and of our fellowmen.
The journey of the Magi prefigures our own journey. Like them, we are in an arduous journey here on earth. Our destiny is to be with our Lord Jesus. In the end, heaven will be our reward. At the end of our journey may we be able to say, just like in the words of St. Paul (2 Timothy 4:7) “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”