Jan. 5, 2013 The Epiphany of the Lord Isaiah 60:1-6 Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 Matthew 2:1-12
Matthew’s version of today’s Gospel is yet another way of showing his Jewish audience that Jesus was fulfilling the Scriptures. In the Gospel, we catch the connection with chapter 60 of Isaiah (Is 60:1-6) and Psalm 72.
Just as the Jews saw Matthew’s account as a fulfillment of the Scriptures, we read it in the light of our own experience and all that we know about the birth of Christ and our own expectations.
For many of us, the Magi are the most colorful Christmas figures of all. When I was in elementary school, their costumes in the Christmas pageant were the most colorful. We all knew their names (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar). I don’t think anyone told us that there is no biblical basis for those names and we didn’t care. Nor does the Gospel tell us that there were three. Actually there is no mention of how many Magi there were or that they came with camels. But it makes sense to us that if there were three gifts, there were three kings. The details recounted in the story as we tell it are, of themselves, insignificant. What is more important is that none of these details deters us from the theology proclaimed in the feast day.
Isaiah 60 mentions only two of the gifts mentioned by Matthew: gold, fit for a king, and frankincense, for the worship of God. Myrrh (added in the Gospel) was used in preparing the dead for burial. It tells us that this King has come to die.
When I was a child, my religion teachers told me that the kings represented the gentile community. Jesus, they told me, was rejected by the Jews. I was never very happy at the thought that God's acceptance of me was dependent on the Jews' rejection. Vatican II corrected that misconception. Instead, it is clear that we are not simply God’s second choice. Jesus came to save all. We are, as St. Paul tells us, coheirs and copartners in the promise of the Messiah.
The boldness of the Father's plan surprises us. We are unique individuals who come from a variety of cultures. We are divided by prejudices rooted in physical and intellectual differences. We do not look alike and we do not think alike. At times, it seems the things dividing us are more powerful than what unites us. At this liturgy, we announce our faith in the Lord Jesus who makes us one. We proclaim that no other consideration is as important.
Yes, Epiphany is a celebration of the Father's plan for all of us. It is more than a festival imitating Christmas or a romantic trip to lands of kings and astrologers. At this Eucharist, we are challenged to root out those parts of our lives that prevent unity. We are asked to take up the cause of the Father so that we might all be one.