The Solemnity of the Epiphany observes in a hidden way what will eventually be proclaimed from the rooftops: that salvation has come for all people through the Jews in Jesus. The Magi are the first recorded non-Jews, Gentiles, who have come to offer this
newborn king their homage. He is their king too. After the resurrection, as the good news of salvation possible in Christ is advanced to “the ends of the earth,” Gentiles will be proclaimed as absolutely included in God’s salvific plan to save all. No one will be excluded from the possibility of being saved, Jew and Gentile alike, but only through Christ. As St. Paul states, “It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the same Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Thus the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled, “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.”
Acknowledging the need for a savior and even Christ as the king of one’s life can be difficult. Though the images of kingship used in the readings may seem distant, with a little childlike imagination we can enter into the timeless truths veiled in this divinely inspired title. A king is one to whom we yield our will for the sake of their prerogatives. In the case of God, who is professed to be king throughout the Scriptures, we are willingly yielding to one who is far more good, loving and wise than any human could hope to be. Our obedience to this king thus has no chance of leading us astray, in fact, in him we alone find our true self, freedom and life.
Herod however will have none of this. He stands in the Gospel painted as one who will not yield to another king, certainly not one who threatens to take away his own authority. Herod will not yield his place to another. Herod could be anyone or any society that resists the call of God to holiness and salvation. Often in our lives we proclaim to know better when faced with a truth that we disagree with as presented by God through his living voice, the church. We are like Herod and find ourselves “deeply troubled,” This individual unsettledness is manifested collectively in our society which rejects the king who has designed this world and rather proclaims to know best what is authentic love, faith, morality and life. The Magi however accepted the true king, did him homage and presented their gifts. The Christian life begins at Bethlehem by accepting the king, giving him the prostrating homage of obedience and presenting the gift of ourselves to be used for the glory of his designs and not our own.
Questions for Reflection
1. Gold is for a king; where in my life can I yield to God humbler obedience?
2. Frankincense is for divinity; how can I more open my heart to Jesus?
3. Myrrh is for suffering; what cross can I carry more quietly with Christ?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.