THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, January 3, 2021
(Isaiah 60: 1-6; Ephesians 3: 2-3.5-6; Matthew 2:1-12)
Who are the magi? They are not kings even though they carry exquisite gifts. Nor are they magicians. They are researchers. They study the heavens and the earth in search of truth. We can consider them wisemen since they are looking for more than knowledge of physical reality. They also want to know the meaning behind the reality.
The magicians focus on the star. It represents nature in all its complexity and the extent of existence. Through nature we can know something about God. At least it can be concluded that God exists as the creator of the universe. We can also deduce from nature that God expects justice from humans. Everyone has a conscience to distinguish between good and bad. We know that it is bad to murder one’s neighbor and good to give alms to the poor.
However, we cannot know God through nature. We could not say that God is loving and merciful without His help. For this reason the magicians have to consult the Jews for the whereabouts of the "king of the Jews." The Jews have the self-revelation of God Himself. They know where the “ruler, who to shepherd… Israel,” will be born.
Curiously, the Jews do not want to accompany the magi in their search for truth. In fact, when hearing of the newborn "king of the Jews," Herod, their leader, becomes jealous. In time he will devise a plot to kill him. Certainly not everyone seeks truth. Some have other goals in life. Instead of seeking truth, they want pleasure, money, or power.
These people could not appreciate the glory of God in Jesus Christ if they found him. They think of sacrifice as insanity, simplicity as lack of success, and humility as personal flaw. In contrast, the magi rejoice when they find Jesus. He who is going to sacrifice himself to redeem the world is met as the infant son of a carpenter. He does not live in a palace but an ordinary house. Like Simeon in the Gospel according to Saint Luke, the Magi see the light to all nations in the face of the child Jesus.
Many young people today consider themselves seekers. They do not want to declare themselves as practicing any religion. They dismiss Catholicism as petrified with ancient rules and customs. They want beliefs in accordance with the truth of the self, the environment, and the equality of all people. We believe that if they investigate reality at its roots like the magi, they will find this truth in Jesus Christ. He no longer lives in a house in Bethlehem but in the church that he founded. It is up to us, members of that church, to show young people that rules and customs are not impediments but links. They connect us with the magi of the first century and the saints throughout history. More to the point, they put us in touch with Jesus Christ, King of the Jews and Redeemer of the world.