January 6, 2008 Year A
Epiphany of the Lord
Reflections on the Readings
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
Theme: We Have Come To Worship Him
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.
Wise men came from the East to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." Many came to worship him. The shepherds came in from the fields and the wise men came from afar. From his birth, Jesus was drawing all men to himself, declaring even in his birth, I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I AM THE LIGHT.
The number of Wise men is unknown. We presume there were three. They brought frankincense, gold and myrrh. When they saw the child with Mary his mother they fell down and worshiped him. Anything less would have been inappropriate. Unfolding before the Holy Family is a prelude to another event. That event would have Mary looking upon her Son hanging upon a wooden cross.
It was common to bring gifts to a king. But these gifts carry significance far beyond their immediate magnificence. Frankincense, used in the worship of God, indicates the divinity of the child Jesus. Gold speaks of royalty, thus the kingship of Jesus. Myrrh was an ointment used for the anointing of the Levitical priest. (Exodus 30:23-33) It also was used as a burial ointment. (John 19:39-40) This allegorical description is a common early church understanding of the gifts of the Magi.
Today the Christmas season reaches its climax in the visit of the Magi. The Christmas story is filled with intrigue, displacement, hostility as well as great joy. But our contemplation of the birth of Jesus brings thoughts that both comfort and disturb us. Not too much time will pass until Herod, in a furious rage, will have all the male children in Bethlehem and in that entire region who were two years old or under killed. Rachel weeps for her children, and we weep with her. Hope and fear fill the Christmas story. For Herod, Jesus' birth meant political rivalry. And the young families of Bethlehem fell under his disgusting political rage.
Bethlehem, the House of Bread, is plundered, its youngest wheat harvested before its time.
Abortion, infanticide and euthanasia are the principle ingredients of the culture of death. As the prophet Isaiah says today, "Darkness covers the earth, thick clouds the peoples." It is into this darkness the light of Jesus shines. Millions have been drawn to this light, to be led by His shining radiance. Let us renew our commitment to be led by this light, to live in the hope of His Star. With the Wise Men let us also come to worship him. We fail the memory of those young Bethlehem lives that were sacrificed if we let anything keep us from presenting ourselves in doing him homage. Likewise, we lightly regard the dignity of motherhood, the mothers of Bethlehem, Rachel weeping for her children, if we fail to venerate Mary the Mother of Jesus.
The announcement of Jesus' birth was rightly given with great joy and met with much rejoicing. But sacrifice reveals the glory of a thing. And it is perhaps Rachel weeping for her children and the Wise Men including Myrrh in their gifts, which reveal the true depth and meaning of the life that filled the lonely manger.
Let us then with renewed hearts and with great thanksgiving for the gift of God also go into the house to worship the child Jesus.
See, there He is, over there with Mary his mother.
And they fell down and worshiped him.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, help me to hold nothing back from you. Help me to willingly present myself a living sacrifice; holy and acceptable to you, which is true spiritual worship. Amen.