Epiphany of the Lord
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'" Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage." After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Newborn King, I seek you. You yourself have given me the gift by which I will find you, which is my faith. I seek you because you are all loving, and once I find you and lean on your grace you will enable me to live in such as way as to possess you for all eternity. I want to find you in order to give myself to you and repay your love.
Petition: Lord, show me your face and let my seeing you with the eyes of faith change me for the better.
1. They Seek the Child Diligently. The Magi show us how we ought to respond to the true movements of the Holy Spirit. They could not have sought Christ unless the Father called them, and they are an outstanding example of fortitude and perseverance in the way they went looking for him, in response to God’s calling.
We can imagine the risks the Magi undertook as they left their comfort zone: ridicule from family and neighbors, dangers on the journey, uncertainty. But they went through with it nonetheless. There is something wonderful in the persevering person. We must be prudent in our decisions, but once we make them prudently we must persevere in carrying them out. Fortitude produces firmness in difficulties and constancy in pursuit of the good. Our Christian journey is a seeking of Christ. We must be prepared to face obstacles and difficulties on the journey, especially if we are called by God to follow him in a special way.
Christ warns us about fear and tells us not to let it conquer us. He gives us confidence. Our fortitude is not so much trust in ourselves as trust in him. Fear stifles so many great initiatives of the Holy Spirit. Fortitude is the virtue of everyone who sets out after Christ and wants to be faithful to him, from the teenager resisting peer pressure to the martyr going to his death. Fortitude disposes us to embrace sacrifice and renounce comfort and materialism for the sake of following Christ and doing the work he has chosen for me. The man of persevering faith can honestly say, The Lord is my strength and I sing to him (Ps. 118:14). It reminds us of Christ’s words: In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (Jn. 16:33).
2. "On Entering the House, They Saw the Child and Prostrating Themselves, They Did Him Homage." My heart has spoken of you, my face has sought you. Your Face, Lord, I seek. Do not turn your Face away from me; do not shun your servant in your wrath (Ps. 27). We all long to see the face of God, whether we know it or not. God hides himself enough for us to need to seek him, but reveals himself enough for us not to fall into despair. The Magi sought and found God, not only because they were faithful but especially because God is faithful. Their trusting perseverance paid off and their reaction on finding him is spontaneous, from the heart, and perfect: they fall to their knees and did God homage.
They knocked and the door was opened to them, but the God they found was veiled in humanity. Still, they were overjoyed. What great faith they had! The star confirmed they had found what and whom they were seeking.
They offered their gifts. They had mysterious premonitions that the Baby before them was really a King, but a King who would die. If Christ were this moment to appear before me in the flesh, what gift would l want to give him? What gift would tell him for sure what he means to me?
3. "They Departed for Their Own Countries by a Different Way." They were warned in a dream, and they obeyed. This was not an easy decision, because they place their own lives in danger by doing so, thus disobeying King Herod. Faced with the choice between doing what God wanted or Herod, they chose God, despite the risk. This made them truly wise, not according to the world but according to God.
There is also a symbolic meaning to the different road they took; it reflects the interior change the Magi underwent. No encounter with Christ leaves us as we were before. Conversion means first of all turning our backs on old ways of living, accepting a new scale of values; secondarily it means continually renewing and deepening the consequences of this turning of ourselves towards God. It needs to be a constant feature of our lives, making us progressively more courageous to do what God wants over our inclinations or the pressures of those around us.
The Magi go to their own countries by a different path and as different men. Their surroundings will be as new because Christ is present in their lives. It is good to look back at my experience of Christ over Christmas and the New Year to see what newness it will bring to the way I live my ordinary, daily life and responsibilities, and how it has changed my approach to the major decisions I have to make this year.
Conversation: Lord Jesus Christ, I am on the path towards you but it is often arduous and seems endless. Be my strength so that my seeking you will become an encounter with you in itself. I seek you because I have already found you and wish to know you better, more deeply, more personally and more authentically. I seek you out of the love that you yourself placed in my heart. The more I discover you, the more want to know you more. Strengthen me for this journey.
1. How persevering am I in my spiritual decisions?
2. What gifts should I and do I want to offer Christ?
3. What change do I think Christ is asking me to make in my life?