A Homily for the Solemnity of the Lord’s Epiphany
“We have come to do Him homage.”
From my days in the seminary up to this very day I have heard a myriad of questions in debates about the magi in today’s Gospel. The debates have been phrased in statements and questions like these: “Are the magi really kings? Are they astrologers? Maybe they were merely interpreters of dreams. Were there really only three of them? Is it possible that there were two or maybe four of them who brought three gifts? Maybe they were just some cultic personalities or magicians who practiced occult magic. Are they Persian priests? Maybe they were scientists and thus were called wise men. What are their real names?” The debate is endless.
All these unnecessary discussions about the magi can blur the beautiful invitation behind the reality of the manifestation of the Word made flesh. The message of the Lord’s epiphany is this: The birth of Jesus signifies that this is the time for all people to worship God alone with all that we have.
All people, from all times and places, saints and sinners, Jews and non-Jews, can now worship God in and through Jesus Christ. All that God promises all of humanity in every place and time is fulfilled in Jesus Christ because in Him, God has made Himself accessible to all people, non-Jews included, “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
The magi, sensing this accessibility of the divine to all in the newborn Christ, were undeterred by their being foreigners or non-Jews and came searching for the “newborn king of the Jews,” even as Herod and all Jerusalem were troubled by their mission. We can learn from the magi to draw closer to the heart of Jesus even when we feel so distant from Him and unworthy of His love for us. We do not need to pretend to be different from who we really are but we come to Him as we are. In Jesus Christ, all people can belong to God and worship Him today.
The magi followed the star till they came to worship the newborn king alone. They did not worship the unique star but followed the star. Neither did they worship the troubled king Herod, but they kept their special gift of homage intact till they met the infant Jesus, “They opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” We can learn from the magi not to worship God’s gifts but to use them to draw closer to God, the giver of all gifts. We can also learn from the magi not to offer to other persons or creatures the worship and adoration that we owe to God alone.
We can also learn from the magi to keep our treasures intact, offer them in sincere worship to God and then leave them at His feet. The magi offered and left their precious gifts before the crib. Don’t we offer ourselves to God and then begin to take it back little by little? Don’t we offer ourselves to God and then still continue to worry about our lives? I was reminded of this tendency of ours in my cousin’s Christmas text message: “Why do we give our lives to Jesus and then spend our lives worrying about the same life that we have offered to Him?” The magi teach us to offer all that we have to God and leave it in His hands.
Lastly, the magi, after paying homage to the infant, “departed for their country by another way.” Their return route was different from their arrival route. The magi teach us that our lives will be changed if we approach Jesus in worship with the right attitude. Authentic worship will surely change us, instilling in us God’s desires for us and a complete change in our priorities. As we allow Jesus to draw us to Him through His gifts without us worshiping His gifts, He will surely begin to lead us in life along the path of His own thinking and acting.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we face a very fierce challenge in our secular world today to worship God alone and to draw closer to Him through the gifts that He offers to us. It is so easy for us to worship the gifts that we have received from Him, inordinately pursuing and accumulating them, futilely depending on them to bring us fulfillment and happiness. We begin to feel alienated from God because of our sins or struggles in life. We claim to offer our lives to God but we consciously or unconsciously take back our self-offering to God, living in endless worry as if God never claimed us for His own in baptism through the precious blood of Jesus.
The magi will always remain mysterious to us. We will surely never know who they are. But we can learn from them the way to approach Jesus in our Eucharistic worship today with the right attitude. Jesus is present so that we all have access to God for the sake of that authentic worship of God that changes us from within. He is the One “through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing in glory of God.”(Rom 5:2) If our attitude is anything like that of the enigmatic magi, Jesus will surely begin to lead us interiorly in this dark world and our lives will never be the same again.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!