The story behind the feast of theEpiphany has always been well known in the Church. A little sorting out may be in order. We know the Magi at some point in history also became kings as well as wisemen. Not clear in Matthew’s gospel. At some point, they were given names. Melchior, Balthasar and the other guy. This was done to represent the gentile nation coming to Christ. It was decided as well that one of them would be black….this is kind of the representation of the church that James Joyce described as here comes everybody. Gold, frankincense and myrrh come to represent virtue, and two other things. But none of this is found in Matthew’s gospel today. These were all added in time and tradition. And there’s nothing wrong or incorrect about any of them simply because they help explain why The Son of God became man in Jesus Christ.
We can get buried in the layers of these traditions sometimes and perhaps miss the here and now. Which is why am I here now, why am I at this Mass today and what is this Gospel saying to me. Remember, the reason we proclaim Scripture at Mass is not for entertainment or to stretch out the service. It is prayer. It is a chance for God to speak to you through scripture and for you to listen prayerfully to hear what He is saying. The homily is designed to help you in that prayer. So let me see what I can do here to help.
The Magi are us. They have a travel from the east because they follow the allure of the star. Who is under the star? What is the star all about? What great things will we find there? We follow the star too. The star is in our hearts, it is the basic love of God and yearning for God that we all have. Peace, security, respect…love. These are natural to us, this is the star we long for and follow. The prophet Isaiah tells us that the Christ is coming, not only for the nation of Israel but for all of us. The clouds that clear is sin falling away, our addiction to pride, fear, greed, selfishness, lack of love. The star that shines through is what we are really searching for. Like the Magi, we aren’t sure what it is but we move toward it. That’s our life as the pilgrim Church.
The Magi come to the place where Christ is. We do too, each time we come through those front doors. Just as the Magi did in Bethlehem centuries ago. They recognized who’s presence they were in, just as we do thanks to our graces of baptism, confirmation and reconciliation. And they present gifts of gold, frankincense and myyrh. We present gifts ourselves. Bread and wine, the work of our hands. Not wheat and grapes, but what we have made from wheat and grapes to give nourishment. Our gifts are ourselves and our efforts. Our talents to be put in God’s service, our sinfulness to be destroyed. We bring them to the altar each time we celebrate Mass. In the Eucharist, the gift returns to us as the presence of Christ within our hearts, working through the Holy Spirit to help us becoming the loving people we seek to be, to help us respond to the star that is the love that is God.
The difficulty we face is the rejection of our pride, or selfishness, or any of our habits and lifestyle that keep us from being charitable. In Herod and the leaders in Jerusalem, we see a great reluctance to accept and acknowledge what has happened in Bethlehem. Even fear that their lives may change because of this tremendous event. We experience the same in our own lives, afraid at times to move on from where we are, to move closer to the star.
The Magi, however, have found what they sought. Matthew writes that Herod’s intentions were revealed to them in a dream and that they went home a different way, one away from the sinfulness that lurked in Jerusalem. If we come here with prayerful hearts, hearts open to the love of God manifested through Jesus Christ, then we too will leave here and go home a different way. The same way the blind men who would be healed by Christ on the road to Jerusalem followed. We follow in the way of the star. We follow in the name of Jesus Christ, in the love of the Father, at work in us through the Holy Spirit. A different way, indeed.