January 6, 2021
Upon you shall the Lord shall dawn, and his glory shall appear upon thee.
“Where is the King of the Jews who was born?
Because we’ve seen his star come out and we’re here to worship him.”
Seeing the star, they were filled with immense joy.
Reading the book of Isaiah 60, 1-6
Rise and shine, Jerusalem, for your light comes;
the glory of the Lord dawns upon you!
Darkness covers the earth, the darkness, the peoples,
but upon you shall the Lord shall dawn, and his glory shall be upon thee.
The peoples shall walk into your light, the kings to the glare of your dawn.
Look up, look: all of them have gathered together, they come to you;
your children come from afar, your daughters are in their arms.
Then you will see it, and you will be radiant; your heart will be amazed, widened,
for the opulence of the sea turns upon you, and to you come the riches of the peoples.
You will be covered by a multitude of camels, dromedaries of Mimoan and Ephea.
All of Sheba come bringing gold and incense, and proclaim the praises of the Lord.
Exit 71, 1bc-2. 7-8. 10-11. 12-13
R/. They will prostrate before you, Lord, all the peoples of the earth.
My God, entrust your judgment to the king, your righteousness to the son of kings,
to govern your people fairly, to your humble righteousness. R/.
In his day justice and peace flourish until the moon is lacking;
dominate from sea to sea, from the Great River to the end of the land. R/.
The kings of Tarsis and the islands pay tribute to him.
The kings of Sheba and Arabia offer him their gifts;
stand before him all kings, and serve him all the peoples. R/.
He will deliver the poor man who cried, the afflicted who had no protector;
he will take porry for the poor and the destitute, and save the lives of the poor. R/.
Reading St Paul’s Letter to Ephesians 3, 2-3a. 5-6
You have heard of the distribution of God’s grace that has been given to me on behalf of you Gentiles.
For I was made known by revelation the mystery, which had not been manifested to men in other times, as has now been revealed by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles are also co-heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the same promise in Jesus Christ, by the gospel.
Reading the Holy Gospel according to Matthew 2, 1-12
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the time of King Herod, wizards from the East appeared in Jerusalem asking:
“Where is the King of the Jews who was born? Because we’ve seen his star come out and we’re here to worship him.”
As King Herod found out, he excelled and all of Jerusalem with him; he summoned the high priests and scribes of the country, and asked them where the Messiah was to be born.
“In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is how the prophet has written it:
‘And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Judah, is by no means the last of the peoples of Judah, for from thee shall come a chief that shall shepherd my people Israel.'”
Then Herod secretly called the wizards to let him know how long the star had appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem, telling them:
“Go and find out carefully what about the child and, when you find him, let me know, to go and worship him too.”
They, after hearing the king, set out on their way and suddenly the star they had seen come out began to guide them until he came to stand on top of where the child was.
Seeing the star, they were filled with immense joy. They entered the house, saw the child with Mary, his mother, and fell to his knees worshipped him; then, opening his chests, they offered him gifts: gold, incense and myrrh.
And having received in their dreams an oracle, that they would not return to Herod, they retreated to their land by another way.
Today we celebrate, even in this liturgical time of Christmas, the Solemnity of the Epiphany or Feast of the Three Wise Men, a feast very full of symbols and meanings for our Christian faith.
“Epiphany” means appearance, manifestation or phenomenon from which an important matter is revealed. An epiphany can refer to any type of element that manifests unexpectedly, whether divine or not.
The Epiphany is one of the oldest Christian liturgical festivals, instituted at the end of the 3rd century and throughout the IV in the various Eastern churches. In this context, epiphany means the revelation of the presence of the incarnate God, that is, from Jesus made man to all mankind. For the Catholic Church, the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, celebrated on January 6, or the previous Sunday, relates to the time when Jesus was made known to the Magi from the East. The baby Jesus reveals himself to the Magi, representatives of other civilizations and the pagan world, who identify him as the Messiah. Because of the color of their skin and its provenance, they represented everyone known up to that time: Europe, Asia and Africa. The arrival of a Savior had been announced in several old testament texts. According to the tradition of the Church of the first century, these Magi are associated as powerful and wise men, possibly kings of nations, men who by their culture and spirituality cultivated their knowledge of man and nature striving especially to maintain contact with God. From the biblical passage we know that they are Wizards, who came from the East and that as a gift they brought incense, gold and myrrh; of the tradition of the first centuries we are told that they were three wise kings: Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar.
Giving gifts to children on this day corresponds to the commemoration of the generosity these Magi had in worshipping the Child Jesus and giving him gifts, taking into account what Jesus later said: “whatever you do with one of these little ones, they do to me” (Mt 25:40); to children by making them live beautifully and delicately the fantasy of the event and the elderly as a sign of love and faith for the newborn Christ.
From what the Lord tells us today through His Word, we understand and remember several important aspects of our Christian faith.
The first of these is the universality of their saving mission. From the beginning Jesus is shown as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, sent to save all the peoples of the earth, not just a chosen few. Christ is the light of the world that came to illuminate all darkness, anywhere, region, culture, race, or nation. Christ is not an exclusive “property” of Jews because he is his expected Messiah, nor of Christians because he is our Master and Lord. He is the God and Lord of all and for all. In Him all men and women of goodwill are recognized. Everything true, good, and beautiful that we discover in other cultures and religions is the seed of their mysterious presence, a germ called to grow and bear fruit when they are enlightened from their Gospel. Such universality of salvation for all mankind is symbolically represented uniquely in the three Magi from the East, superbly prophesied by Isaiah at first reading.
The second aspect is to regard Christ as the light of the world. The star that guides the Magi is also a symbol of Jesus. Some experts identify it with different astronomical phenomena of that historical moment, which could motivate the Magi to set out on their way to Jerusalem. For us the important thing is its spiritual meaning. The star is the same Jesus who so often guides us, even without us realizing it, to Himself. It is He who illuminates our steps, who fills us with joy, who discovers his presence, who delivers us from the evil one, who leads us on new paths.
The third aspect is the problem of evil. In the light of Christ there will always be the darkness of sin, of ignorance, of arrogance, of arrogance, of pride, of lies, of manipulation, of envy, of money, of power… depicted in the figure of Herod. In front of Christ, king of light, there will always be the Herods of every age and place as kings of darkness. Herod “reincarnates” in all those who subdue, oppress, deceive, humiliate, manipulate, violent, or kill whoever it takes to remain in “his power.” Deep down they think they’re what they’re not, they think they have what they don’t have, they think they know what they don’t know. They don’t accept anything that contradicts their approaches, or anyone who puts them in question. Because they are considered unique and exclusive, they are exclusive; and they do not hesitate to dispense with anyone who is not submissive to them, or at least useful.
Herod’s figure also represents the evil to which we are always exposed. Above all, the evil that can go against love and faith, against others and against ourselves. Perhaps sometimes, without pretending, we become characters who, under a particular, real or imaginary role, hurt, subdue and hurt others. Attention, then, not to be other Herods or complicit in them.
A fourth aspect of our Christian life can be reflected in the detachment and generosity of the Magi. They set out on a star’s trusting path; we too are always, every day, invited to set ourselves on the road with Christ, detaching ourselves from all that does not allow us to be his disciples. They offered Jesus the best they had. I pray like King, incense like God and myrrh as the one who will die for the salvation of the world. We too are called to always offer God, christ, the best of ourselves; because He must be our only king, our only God, who has given his life for each of us. To offer Jesus everything is but to return to Him all that He has given us. Only God can be offered and given everything. Because only He owns everything and everyone. That’s worshipping him.
One last aspect that we contemplate in today’s Word is the vocation to mission. Those Magi, after worshipping Jesus, returned to their land by another way. Symbolically speaking, it means that they returned transformed into their spirit and turned into witnesses, like the shepherds, of what they had seen and heard. Tradition has it that when the first apostles arrived in certain parts of the East they already found small groups that worshipped Jesus the Messiah. Perhaps these Wizards of the East were the first Christian missionaries. From his image, we too understand that all Christians are called to be missionaries; transformed by the living experience of encountering Him, we are sent by Jesus to witness his light.
Lord Jesus, the light of all peoples, who illuminates the way of all who trust you,
It illuminates the path of those who seek you, guides the steps of those who are lost, fills with joy the hearts of those who feel sad and hopeless.
Lord Jesus, do not let evil blind us like Herod, deliver us from hatred and vengeance, from lies and manipulation, from arrogance and arrogance.
Lord Jesus, help us to be entrusted and merciful, generous and courageous to set out as the Magi of the East in search of you, in search of those who need you, in the search for the truth that comes from your light.
Lord Jesus, let us also often go in imitation of the Magi of the East to worship you in your House which is the Temple and never go empty-handed. May we bring you the gold of our offerings, the incense of our fervent prayer, and the myrrh of the sacrifices we make to remain faithful to You, and may we always find you with your Mother Mary, whom we always want to honor and venerate as Your Mother and our Mother. Amen.