WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM
I remember seeing this on a bumper sticker (when people still used bumper stickers). Actually, it was one of the better bumper stickers I’ve seen. Some were rather unmentionable!
Seeing “wise men” reminded me of a Christmas when one of our sons was in second grade. He was in the school Christmas pageant and proudly announced that he was chosen to be a “wise guy!” Stifling our laughter, his mother and I congratulated him on landing such a prominent role in the play.
Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, that is, the manifestation of Jesus – Savior, Messiah, and Lord – to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi, the Wise Men. As we continue to rejoice in the Lord’s coming upon earth as an infant, we further rejoice that he has been revealed to all nations and to all peoples.
The first reading is a beautiful selection from Isaiah 60, emphasizing light and glory. The revelation to the Gentiles is suggested by this line: “Nations shall walk by your light…” There is also the reference to gold and frankincense, two of the gifts brought by the Magi.
The Responsorial, Psalm 72, says that “The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts, the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.” This also is reminiscent of the Magi’s visit, although there is no indication in the gospel account that they were kings.
We are not told how long after the birth of Jesus that the Magi came. We do know that the Holy Family was still in Bethlehem and in a house. There is, of course, the fascinating point that the Magi were guided by a star to the place where the child was. It has often been noted that “they saw the child with Mary his mother.” As many have pointed out, “If you find Mary his mother, you will find Jesus there too!”
We are also not told how many Magi there were but the traditional number is three, based on the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
A noteworthy point is that the chief priests and scribes interpret the prophecy of Micah correctly – that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem – and they so advise King Herod, doubtless not realizing the king’s nefarious intentions.
In the second reading, St. Paul talks about the “stewardship of God’s grace” that the Lord gave him and about God’s “mystery” revealed to him first and “now…revealed to the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” What is God’s “mystery”? It is no less than this: “that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
I dare say that we tend to take all this for granted. It is “old hat” to us. But to a Jew in the first century, the idea that Gentiles were coheirs with Jews to God’s promises was radical indeed!
So this reading from Ephesians also brings out the main theme of today’s Solemnity – God’s plan to reveal and extend salvation to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
HOW WISE ARE WE?
Think about the Magi. They were not Jews. The revelation to them was imperfect and incomplete. But they were seekers, givers, and worshippers. They were seekers and followed the star, the only sign they had. When they found the Christ Child, they bowed and prostrated in worship. Then they gave precious gifts. They were Wise Men indeed! Let us pray today and throughout this new year that we would imitate the Magi by truly seeking the Lord, worshipping the Lord, and giving the Lord our most precious gifts.