Christmas Tide (6th January, 2019)
Feast of Epiphany of the Lord
First Reading: Is 60:1-6
Second Reading: Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6
Gospel: Mt 2:1-12
Epiphany means revelation of God’s nature. From the beginning of creation God has been revealing Himself to human beings. The manner of revelation has been different in various ages. In the Old Testament, we find that God reveals Himself in the form of fire, cloud, light, wind and also through angels. The Bible also says that God appears through dreams and visions. Today we commemorate the visit of Magis (three kings) to child Jesus in human appearance of God Himself through His beloved son.
The magis described in today’s Gospel start their journey to visit the baby Jesus travelling thousands of miles to worship him. Indeed, we can imagine the hardship and toil they undertook for months during this journey on camels. Yet all these for a single purpose of having to visit the King of Kings born in a manger in the form of feeble baby. In this journey, they must have met a lot of hard experience of wandering without the knowledge of destination. Yet, they move forwards with resolute will to find Him and worship Him. To achieve this end, or to complete their pilgrimage, they even seek the aid of human beings namely King Herod. One can learn many lessons from their pilgrimage. Here we shall dwell on two main aspects of these pilgrims namely their humility and obedience.
We come to know that the person who set out to worship the little babe Jesus were Magis. Magis are known as teachers or scholars. Being scholars, they must have been well versed in various subjects as well as revered by the society. The title ‘Magis’ attributed to them itself indicates the respect and honour they received from many.
In spite of all these, today we see in the Gospel that they were humble to the core. No where do they show anything of the statute or position but humble themselves to worship the little Jesus. We at this moment can compare their position to that of Jesus Himself too. As St. Paul says, “Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself taking the form of a slave being born in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-9). They are like the centurion who, begging Jesus for cure of his servant humbled himself and says, “Lord, I am not worthy that you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed…” (Mt 8:8).
Hence, we see these three kings stooping themselves to the level of a poor who, being ignorant of the fact would seek for some information from others. They do not seek any glory for themselves but for glorifying child Jesus. They did not come to receive anything from him but only to offer themselves to him through the gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold.
The second quality we see in them is that they obeyed command of God more than that of human beings. In this world, we see that people have generally more allegations or faithfulness towards men and much less to God. Pleasing man becomes easier and more necessary than pleasing God. In this world with such phenomena, the three kings appear different from the pattern of the world. The gospel narrates that those three kings seek the help of King Herod to know the place of birth of Jesus as the star which guided them had disappeared. They met King Herod who perhaps was more powerful and more learned than they were. King Herod asked his wise persons to tell them the birth place of Messiah. Once he comes to know of it to be Bethlehem, he did share that knowledge with those Magis with a condition that they should come back and let him know so that he could also go and pay him homage. But it was the will of God that they should not return to Herod as told in the divine dream. Here there was every danger for them to be caught for disobeying the King i.e., for not doing as he commanded them to do. Yet they were not afraid of him but obeyed the will of God revealed through warning they received in a dream. It was like when Jesus would say, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28). Yes. They were more afraid of the harm to their soul than body. It was because of this they humbled themselves and obeyed God’s word more than command of a human being or a king on this earth.
The story of three wise men invites us to look back on our life to see whom we are worshipping or what we are worshipping God for? It is for the glorification of God or ourselves? Are we ready to give up our status for the sake of Christ? Whom do I listen to more God or man? Amen.