Imitate Magi with Joy, Homage, Gift of Self
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel."
The Epiphany of the Lord is fittingly celebrated during the Christmas season. It is a celebration of the manifestation of the Lord Jesus to the world. Over the centuries, three different “epiphanies” have been included in this celebration: the wedding at Cana when Jesus was made manifest to the disciples; the baptism of the Lord when He was made manifest to the Jews; and the visit of the Magi when the Lord was made manifest to the gentile world, the whole world. Traditionally, on this feast, Eastern Christians have focused on the baptism of the Lord, while Christians in the West have focused on the adoration of the Magi.
I would like to reflect with you upon the response of the Magi which stands out as something worthy of our imitation 2000 years later.
Matthew recounts that the Magi were ”overjoyed” at seeing the star and entering the lodging of the Holy Family. The astrologers from the East are understandably filled with joy as they find the great goal of their long journey, the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. The star and the grace of God help them to see that this was no ordinary child.
As Christians, we see in the newborn Babe that God looks with pity upon our lowly human condition and does something about it. The Father’s love leads Him to send His most precious possession, His only begotten Son. God crashes through the barriers of time and space and is born in time of a lowly virgin; He comes to journey with us, to embrace our brokenness, to carry our burdens. The Son pitches His tent among us in order to save us from our sins. The amazing beauty of this great truth should never stop arousing joy in our hearts.
Secondly, Matthew tells us: “They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” In the presence of Jesus, these pilgrims fell to the ground. Did their legs buckle underneath as they become aware of the divine presence? Did the Spirit’s gift of reverence and awe well up in their hearts and drive them to their knees?
As Christians, the mystery of the word made flesh still drives us to prostrate ourselves. So does the Blessed Sacrament of the word made flesh. In both mysteries, God overwhelms us with His magnificence and His humility. It is a good thing to fight the tendency to lose the sense of reverence and awe in God’s presence. Sometimes, like the worker who sells souvenirs in the shop at the Grand Canyon and becomes so familiar with the splendor of God’s creation that he fails to take notice of what lies before him, we Catholic Christians can become too “familiar” with the beauty of the Incarnation or the Lord’s presence in the holy Eucharist and fail to respond with the proper faith and reverence.
Thirdly, the magi opened their treasures and offered gifts to the newborn King. Practically speaking, these gifts likely sustained the Holy Family during their exile in Egypt. More importantly, the gifts represent the total gift of self that God’s greatness demands. It is a very natural and fitting response to the grandeur and generosity of God to share what has been bestowed lovingly upon us.
As modern day followers of Christ, our lives should be marked with a similar generosity. The first response is to offer God worship: a sacrifice of thanksgiving (especially in the Mass), adoration, praise, reverence and awe, daily prayer, and obedience. The worship of God is one way that we can “give” back in a small but significant fashion.
Our worship of God should, then, lead directly to the loving and humble service of our neighbor, the sharing of God’s bounty. True faith makes us aware that everything we have is a gift. Even if we have worked hard for some of our blessings, absolutely everything good ultimately comes from the Lord. What we have received, we have been given to share, especially with those who have less.
The Lord Jesus was made manifest to the world in a grand way when the Magi visited the stable in Bethlehem. Their joy, their homage and their offering of gifts remain an example for those who come before Jesus in 2012.
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index