Is. 60:1-6; Ps. 72; Eph. 2:2-3a, 5-6; Mt. 2:1-12
(Audio recorded live, 8 January 2023)
They departed for their country by another way. Today, we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, the day on which Jesus was revealed as the light to the Gentiles. One of the antiphons from the Liturgy of the Hours for today’s feast reads: “Seeing the star, the wise men said: This must signify the birth of some great king. Let us search for him and lay our treasures at his feet: gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Indeed, this sums up not only what happened, but what was to happen for the people of all nations, namely that they would see the light which is Jesus Christ, hand their treasures over to him, and most importantly, depart for their country by another way. That way is the way of Jesus Christ; those treasures are the many gifts and talents we share with one another as the People of God; and we ourselves depart from errant ways by following in the footsteps of Christ.
The significance of the wise men coming from the East is that they represent the Gentiles. They were among the first Gentiles to come and give homage to Jesus. The Gentile peoples practiced pagan forms of religion. They often sought to connect spiritually with some deity, whether it be a god of the rain, god of the wind, god of the Sun, or the like. Paganism also had deep roots in stargazing and astrology. This is why the wise men noticed the Star of Bethlehem, which led them to Jesus. In some sense, all of God’s creation leads us to Christ. When we see the beauty of God’s creation—the petals of a flower, the perfect geometry of a pine cone, the kaleidoscope of colors we see during a sunset—these are all vestiges of God’s fingerprint on creation. But, they all pale in comparison with what the wise men saw: the child with Mary his mother.
There is perhaps no more meaningful image than a mother and her child. Have you ever noticed how often we see this imagery in the Church? Over and over again, we see Mary holding the baby Jesus. And when we see her holding Jesus, it is never to possess him as if to keep him for herself, rather, she holds Jesus in front of her, as she offers him to the world. For it was through her that Jesus took flesh and became man. The Incarnation of our Blessed Lord is the light of Jerusalem and the light to the Gentiles. This is so that all nations may come to know the Truth, and as St. Paul says, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). Infant though he was, the wise men recognized this and they left forever changed.
What about us? Do we recognize Christ as our King? Do we look at the images of Mary holding Jesus and see how he has come not only into the world, but into our hearts? Are we allowing Jesus to transform our hearts so we can return by another way? At the beginning of the year, it is good to take stock of where we are on the path of Christ. Are we going our own way or his? His way is the way of empathy, compassion, and love. Have we grown bitter over the last few years? Is the NEWS making us angry? Have we forgotten the great commandments to love God and love our neighbor? These are all good questions to ask, and if we find ourselves falling into temptation, to bitterness, to resentment, we do well to work against it with the grace of God. Now is as good a time as any to make some positive changes in our life. And so, we do well to work hard at our Christian life, to constantly evaluate it, to nurture it, and to allow God to transform us. When we put in the work, as the wise men did, traveling great distances, we too will encounter Christ. And such an encounter leaves us forever changed.
And so, as we continue to reflect on the awesome meaning of the wise men’s encounter with the child Jesus, let us also reflect on the awesome reality of his True Presence among us in the Eucharist. May our encounter with the Lord today help us to return home by another way, transformed by his grace, renewed in our love and devotion to him who was born to offer his life so that we may enjoy the fullness of life through him.