January 7, 2018 Feast of the Epiphany
We have heard the story of the arrival of the Magi many times over.
- Traditionally it brings our celebration of Christmas to a close.
- Today, St. Matthew ask us to look at it from a different perspective.
- It is a story filled with contrasts.
In the Gospel for today St. Matthew introduces us to two groups of people.
King Herod the Great
The first person we meet is King Herod the Great. He represents tyranny and curse.
- King Herod is remembered in history for his extreme cruelty.
- His reaction to the birth of a new king with in his realm is one of suspicion and dismay.
- You get some sense of his diabolical cunning in his dealing with the magi.
Herod and the Magi
St. Matthew portrays the scene. The Magi arrive at the court of King Herod inquiring about the birth of a king.
- Of course, Herod relies upon the advice of the religious leaders who inform him that according to prophecy and scripture a newborn King is to be born in Bethlehem.
- It’s just possible, that this could be the long awaited Savior.
- Herod considers himself to be the savior of the Jewish people.
- After he finds out the details of the birth of this king, Herod pretends to be interested and amazed.
- He instructs the magi to bring him word of this newborn King so that Herod might pay him due respect and worship.
- It is obvious that Herod has no intention of paying him reverence.
- He intends to eliminate him.
Massacre of the Holy Innocents
In another section of his gospel, Matthew describes Herod’s action.
- It has come to be known as the massacre of the holy innocence.
- In order to eliminate this Jesus, Herod orders the massacre of all male children three years of age and younger in Bethlehem and its surrounding area.
- From other details of history, his actions come is no surprise.
The second group is the much more fascinating.
- Throughout history the Magi have remained mysterious.
- They are not Jewish but are probably Zoroastrian Priest/astronomers.
- They have come a long distance led by a star.
- In the gospel, they represent the wisdom and the mysticism of the Orient.
- Although they are not familiar with Jewish tradition or scripture they come searching for someone special.
- For them, perhaps he is a king or even more.
- Without realizing the importance of the event, their reaction is astonishing.
- They choose to bring three precious elements to present to this newborn King.
- If King Herod stands for curse and tyranny, the Magi represent blessing and innocence.
Magi and the Star
After their meeting with Herod the Magi are overjoyed at seeing the star once again.
- This particular reference in the Gospel story is an interesting one. It appears that somewhere in that journey the star disappeared and they had to rely on local information to complete their journey.
- Hence, that’s what brought them to the court of King Herod.
- As the gospel unfolds, as they leave Jerusalem on the short trip to Bethlehem, once again the star appears.
- It is the sign that directs them to the goal of their journey.
- Seeing that star once again must have reaffirmed everything they knew and gave them the encouragement they needed to complete the journey.
After finding the new king and upon seeing him the Magi lay three gifts at his feet. Those gifts are important for what they signify.
- Gold signifies royalty and the dominion of a king who rules over a vast area. It signifies here that Jesus is the king who has been promised from ages past. Curiously enough, as Jesus hangs dying on the cross, the sign over his head implies that he is king. Surprisingly, he is not the king that people expected he would be. As he told Pontius Pilate, my kingdom is not of this world.
- The second gift is frankincense. Frankincense is a precious resin was used in the worship of the temple in Jerusalem. It signifies divinity. Here it implies that Jesus is divine The son of the living God.
- The final gift is a powder called Myrrh. Myrrh was used in preparation for burial. It was a powder like substance that was used to cover the body prior to it being wrapped for burial. Here the gift of myrrh signifies that ultimately Jesus will lay down his life as savior of the world.
Whatever happened to the magi after this?
- Nobody really knows. There are all kinds of stories that theorize what happened.
- The star and the Magi disappear.
- In a sense, they place their gifts at the feet of the newborn King and they put everything in his hands. They leave and all is well.
- Then they disappear into history.
Application and the STAR
The star serves as a fascinating element of this entire story.
- That star and its movement across the sky has capture the imagination of so many people.
- Scientists and astronomers have conjectured many times over what possibly could have produced the star of Bethlehem.
- One thing for sure, however, the star is the image that leads the magi to the Christ child.
- When they lost sight of the star, they did two things.
- First they sought direction and ask for assistance.
- Second they trusted that the star would once again appear and guide them to the Christ child.
The star in the story represents the image that continues to center and guide a person to Christ.
- Sometimes we lose sight of the star.
- Life can become hectic and complicated.
- There’s the danger of turning into ourselves and seeking answers and assistance from our own resources.
- That’s when we lose sight of the star.
- When we lose sight of the star, we need to do the same thing that the Magi did.
- First we need to ask for help and second we need to trust that the Lord will be there for us and that he will guide us to himself.
This Sunday, think for a moment about somebody you know who has lost sight of the star.
- I’m sure each of us know somebody who has.
- Maybe it’s a member of our family or maybe it’s a coworker or somebody that we know.
- Maybe they’re finding it hard to keep going.
- Maybe they are facing suffering or loss.
- Maybe life is just hard for them and they seem to be drifting.
- The gospel challenge for today is this.
- During mass today, especially after holy Communion lift that person up before Jesus and just ask Him to help them once again to be able to see that star to guide that person back to him.
Remember, God loves every single one of us very much.
- It may be a small thing to pray for another, but it may just make a difference.