The Sunday readings today (in the US) celebrate The Epiphany of the Lord and they are very beautiful and full of hope. The readings are not just about hope, which is beautiful in and of itself, but the fulfillment of hope:
“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow.”
I’ve been holding our newborn granddaughter for over an hour this morning, examining her tiny hands and feet, kissing her little nose and sweet cheeks, and stroking her soft, silky hair. We have been waiting for her arrival for nine months, trying to picture what she looks like, and now – here she is! A beautiful little miracle. I am most definitely, “radiant” at what I see and my heart is full and overflowing. Our daughter has a medical condition and was told by her doctor that she couldn’t have children. But, here she is – our little miracle in the flesh! She most beautifully embodies the fulfillment of hope.
The first reading is also a prophecy of hope, that is fulfilled at Christ’s birth by the three wise men:
“…the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.”
I love this story about Christ’s birth in the bible because of it’s beautiful portrayal of hope. Isaiah’s prophecy was actually fulfilled in the very same manner that God said it would be. The three magi came riding on camels and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus, just like the prophet Isaiah foretold it would happen.
As I read the gospel today, I could only shake my head in amazement. The reality of Christ’s birth must have been a very profound experience for the three wise men. They no doubt talked about this for many months. They probably tried to visualize in their mind what baby Jesus would look like, but the picture would not quite form in their mind yet. Did they ever doubt that he was real? Did they ever think that they might be on a wild goose chase, or that it might not be the right time for the birth of the messiah? Could they have misread the signs? Was it really His star, or just some other unusual phenomenon?
Their doubts must not have discouraged the wise men too much though, because they kept on following that star, one step at a time, every day, until they landed in Jerusalem. What an example they set for all of us! To continue to place our hope and trust in God every day, in all of the different circumstances and environments that we encounter in our own life. Sometimes we feel safe and secure in our “comfort zones”, and then lose our sense of spiritual grounding if something changes in our life. A new job, a new baby, moving to a new home, a broken relationship, a death in the family, etc. can disrupt our spiritual routines like prayer, adoration, daily Mass, etc. It’s disorienting. But, the magi took all of the changes in their daily life in stride, and continued to hope in God’s promises throughout all of the unknown events that lay ahead of them.
Fear of the unknown cripples many people, but the three wise men’s antidote to fear was to trust God.
King Herod’s answer to fear was control. He tried to control and manipulate the situation. The magi kept an open heart and were flexible though, in their search for baby Jesus. They were willing to adapt their plans and keep new possibilities open for the future. King Herod was threatened by change and new possibilities in the future. Who do you identify with the most? The need to control events? Or the need to keep an open mind and heart and be flexible to change? Change is a scary thing for a lot of people and yet some of the very best things in life come to us as a result of change.
The world changed for all of eternity the night that baby Jesus was born …
There are now 2.2 billion people in the world that believe that Jesus Christ is truly the son of God.
The magi already had an inkling of this though, when they prostrated themselves before baby Jesus and did him homage. The reality of actually being in the presence of the newborn son of God must have been very profound. Did tears well up in their eyes when they looked at him for the very first time? Were their hearts full and overflowing? Did they hold him in their arms or just gaze upon his sweet presence? Perhaps they did not say very many words – but their actions spoke for themselves. They gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The prophecy was fulfilled, but the magi’s trust in God continued. The three wise men listened to a dream, and the warning to not to return to Herod – and they trusted it. They were flexible enough to change their plans in order to avoid King Herod. We would do well to remember the magi’s example of faith, hope and trust in the Lord.
Sunday Mass Readings: Is 60:1-6; Ps 72; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12