January 3, 2021
Matthew 2: 1-12
By Rev. John Tran
All the readings today emphasize one thing: That the salvation brought by Jesus at his birth and completed in his death and resurrection is not only for the Jewish people; it is for all people, Jew and Gentile alike. Jesus first came among his own people, but made is clear that he is for all people of all times. Let us concentrate this Epiphany on one group that the St. Matthew uses to make this very point, the Magi or Three Kings.
These Magi or Wise Men were not Jewish, did not practice the Jewish religion or really know much about the soul of the Jew. They were outsiders to the Jewish religious system. They had no lifelong invested interest in Judaism or a Messiah. But somehow, God came into their hearts and spoke to them about the birth of a very special new king of the Jews, one who would save all people. God inspired them to follow a sign of hope he gave them: the star. The special star that would guide them to the place where this new baby king would be born. Out of their religious and generous hearts, they brought him gifts fit for a king: Gold, a symbol of kingship on earth; Frankincense, a symbol of the anointing of priesthood, and myrrh, a symbol both of sacrifice and death, since incense was used for burial. But what of these men who made such a dangerous journey without benefit of maps, much less a GPS.
In his poem, Journey of the Magi, T. S. Elliot begins it thus:
“ A cold coming we had of it,
Just at the worst time of the year:
the ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter...
A hard time we had of it...
With voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.”
I think this captures something of what it must have been for the Magi. A long journey, made in faith and hope, with no guarantee of success. They gave up control of their lives because they listen to a word from God, took it to heart, and put it into action -- a very radical action, indeed. They were totally vulnerable, as vulnerable as the poor, defenseless Child in the manger that they sought to worship. We can say that their eyes were fixed on Jesus who was the Light of the Nations.
By choosing to be vulnerable and to risk a leap of faith, they discovered an unexpected gift much greater than the ones they were ready of offer. They discovered the fulfillment of a “holy longing.”
But, we do not need to focus only on the Wise Men. Each day we also are called to leave the safety and security of what we know, the conventions [or usual lifestye] which rule our lives, the control we think we have. We are called to leave it all behind and step out into the unknown, to let go and be vulnerable in order to discover the answer to our holy longing. Do we dare to look out and see what God might be inspiring us to do or to say?
This Epiphany, we remember the risk taken by the Magi and the fulfillment they received because they took that risk. Maybe we can ask ourselves three questions today:
1. What is the road I am being called to travel to find God in my life?
2. Who are my companions on the road? With whom do I share my vision of Jesus: My vision of the Church?
3. What gifts and talents do I bring to Jesus? to the Church? to the whole of humankind?