A Cycle – Feast of Epiphany 23
Mt. 2: 1-12
I know a family who have a Christmas tradition that takes place daily during the fourteen days from Christmas to Epiphany. Each evening their children advance three wise men from a distant room in their home until on this day they are in front of Jesus in the manger. It is an exciting journey for the children, and you can see their excitement grow as the wise men get closer and closer to Jesus. But as engaging as it is the scripture story of the wise men has a deeper meaning for us. The Magi believed the prophesies about the Messiah long before they left their homeland to pay homage to the newborn king.
The truth is we do not know much about these three men because the scriptures are lacking in any details about them. We have much folklore about them and beliefs about them. We have over the years given them names. But their names are not mentioned in the scriptures nor are any camels mentioned. Some scholars tell us they came from Arabia and were most likely riding horses. But all this interesting background stuff is not what God wants us to focus on in this gospel story. I will repeat what I have often said in this blog and that is the scriptures are God’s revelation of himself to us and they provide us with a means to respond to that revelation.
An important fact in this gospel is these three knew the prophesies about the coming of the Messiah and were waiting for a sign that would signify he had finally arrived. But when that star appeared signaling his arrival, they needed to do more than acknowledge his arrival. Acknowledging the sign was easy for them and it is for us. But more is needed beyond acknowledge him. There must be a response to his presence. What is needed is what they did when they arrived at the place where he was. It is what the shepherds did. What is needed is to come before him as the centurion did at the foot of the cross did and proclaim his as the Son of God.
The Magi on seeing the star, began a long, arduous, dangerous journey to stand before the Son of God and not only acknowledge him but to also pay him homage. We do not know how long that journey took them, but it was not a day trip nor was it a weekend trip. There is a lesson in their response for us. Each week we stand and profess our faith and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. We easily recite the words acknowledging his birth, death, and resurrection so that we may stand in righteousness before God. Acknowledging was the first and a necessary step for the Magi but following their acknowledgment was a journey based on a belief in a prophesy.
That journey for them is part of a powerful message given to us in the scriptures. We know nothing about the impact of this event on the Magi after they departed Bethlehem and returned to Arabia. We do not know how did this encounter changed them, or what did they did or who they convinced that the Messiah had come?
More important is the silence of the impact on them is a clue to us that should make us stop and reflect on our own lives and response to Jesus. Jesus is constantly inviting us to open our hearts to his presence. He calls us, invites us, waits patiently for us to respond just as he waited patiently for his time to come out of 30 years of obscurity to declare the Kingdom of God is at Hand. Come to me, he says. Follow me, he says. He says to us, “…behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and him with me” (Rev.3:20).
Without going into detail about my journey to God, I will tell you I heard that knock ten years before I said yes and opened that door. Why it took me so long is a common story for I have heard it often as people struggle with leaving the comfort of practicing their faith to living their faith. Before I said yes, I was comfortable with my faith where it was. I was actively involved in my parish; my faith was predictable and what I had to do was dictated by the demands of my faith and the law. Responding to Jesus requires more than meeting the demands of the law, it demands a belief in what the death of Jesus attained for us. It demands of us a trust in God and a confidence in the promises of God to be with us always. Jesus’s coming was God’s plan to remove the barrier our sin created between us his grace. It takes a belief in the Spirit as a part of God’s plan to change our hearts, so we do more than follow the law, we follow the one who wrote the law.
Ten years after I was aware of the God’s call to become more than just a practicing Catholic, I responded and began my journey. Jesus in the upper room the night before he died told us we could do nothing apart from him. Yet looking back at my comfortable faith filled life, I realized everything I did was apart from him. The story of the Magi tells us something profound – acknowledging is not enough. It must be followed by a journey, a willingness to do something apart from their daily routine and embark on a journey to encounter Christ. To discover if the prophecies are true and the promises of God are true.
That is the message we need to respond to in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Do we dare set out to discover for ourselves the truth of the gospel. God made us a promise that he would change our hearts making it possible for us to follow his law of love. He promised us we would be intimate with him and he with us and he promised us not only that he would forgive our sins, but he would forget our sins He promised us we are destined to conform to the image of his Son, our brother, our savior Jesus Christ if only we would resound to his invitation. The Father of the prodigal son is waiting for us to return and allow him to reveal to us who we are and who we are destined to become. Do we dare set out on a journey to encounter his embrace is the challenge of the Magi