The wise men are truly an example for us. These men were not content to sit around and wait for the birth of the King of the Jews, they read the signs of the day and decided to seek out the newborn king. Wise men indeed. Their intent was to pay homage to Jesus, to bow down before him and worship this much promised Messiah. Herod’s intent was far from noble, he said he wished to pay homage, however, his intention was to stay in power and to quash any talk of anyone else becoming King of the Jews.
These wise men represent all of the Gentiles; all those born outside of the Jewish race. In reading the signs of the day, they became signs themselves; a sign that God was sending his Son to the whole human race and not just the Chosen Jewish Race and also that our Faith is a not a passive faith it is a faith where we are called to follow the light and walk towards Jesus and when we have found Jesus we are to follow him wherever He takes us.
This is in line with the reading we have from the prophet Isaiah today. The prophet mentions light coming to Jerusalem; all nations coming to the light. All assembling and coming to you, can be compared to the census; sons from far away [Joseph] and daughters being tenderly carried [Mary is traditionally portrayed as riding on a donkey towards Bethlehem]. Isaiah talks about the wealth of the nations coming to you, camels carrying people from Midian, Ephah and Sheba and bringing gold and incense and singing the praise of the Lord. Our Gospel from Matthew, reports all of these as having happened.
These wise men travelled great distances at personal cost and risk to find the child Jesus. What have we done to find Jesus; how do we pay Him homage?
We hear in the Responsorial psalm today that “all nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.” These wise men, who came to pay the Lord homage fell onto their knees and “did him homage”, as we come to Mass, coming together as the Body of Christ, we kneel and worship Our Saviour, we share from His banquet table, call His Father Our Father and as we leave the church building we are told to “go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or to “glorify God by our lives.” Just like the wise men we have to get up and go, only our task is not to seek the child Jesus, but to seek those who do not know about Jesus. We are to take Jesus out of the church building and shine his light onto a world that is broken and so in need of Jesus.
I am in a very privileged position, as an ordained minister; I get to go out and meet people, I am representing the Church in a formal manner in some very informal locations. In my short time in ministry, I have met so many people that I would never have encountered before. I recently spent some time with a Catholic lady in hospital, who is close to the end of her life. This lady’s faith energised me. This lady still displayed a great sense of humour, and the strength of her witness was powerful. I told her how her faith gave me lots of encouragement, and if it had that effect on me, it must surely have made a similar impression on her daughter and two granddaughters who were with me in that room. This was a lady who; without using any form of a book; was announcing the Gospel of the Lord.
The birth of Jesus, and the arrival of the wise men from the east are a gift to every single person who has been born since the time of Jesus. This was God saying, I’m no longer calling just one race as the Chosen People, I now choose everyone. God is saying I want every man, woman and child, who God has created in his image and likeness; to become his adopted children.
Finally, I would like to repeat the words of Pope Benedict XVI; who died just over a year ago; when he spoke about today’s Solemnity:
Men and women of every generation need on their pilgrim journey to be directed: what star can we therefore follow? After coming to rest ‘over the place where the child was’, the purpose of the start was ended, but its spiritual light is always present in the Word of the Gospel, which is still able today to guide every person to Jesus. This same Word, which is none other than the reflection of Christ, true man and true God, is authoritatively echoed by the Church for every well-disposed heart. The Church too, therefore, carries out the mission of the star for humanity. But something of the sort can be said of each Christian, called to illuminate the path of the brethren by word and example of life.1
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Solemnity of the Epiphany
CCC 528, 724: the Epiphany
CCC 280, 529, 748, 1165, 2466, 2715: Christ the light of the nations
CCC 60, 442, 674, 755, 767, 774-776, 781, 831: the Church, sacrament of human unity
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation and those considering coming into the Catholic Church.
- The innocent people caught up in wars and conflicts around the world, but especially those in Palestine, Israel, Ukraine and Russia.
- Those on pilgrimage or those planning a pilgrimage at this time.
1 Pope Benedict XVI, CTS New daily Missal, People’s Edition, [Catholic Truth Society, London, 2012] 115.