A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” This same sense of suspense and surprise prompted and encouraged the great travelers like Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus to make risky and adventurous journeys. It is the same curiosity which led the Magi to follow the star of Bethlehem. An element of suspense marked every moment in the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit of God was going to take them down next. Today’s readings invite us to have the same curiosity as travelers and movie fans do, so that we may discover the “epiphany,” or manifestation, or Self- revelation, of our God in every person and every event, everywhere.
The Magi were not Kings, but a caste of Persian priests who served Kings, using their skills in interpreting dreams and watching movements of stars. Stars were believed to be signs from God, announcing important events. The brightness of the Light to which kings were drawn was made visible in the star Magi followed. They were led by God’s power to Christ and brought gifts to him and his family—to Mary and Joseph—as Isaiah and the psalmist foresaw.
Magi gave three gifts. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Gold was a gift for Kings, and the Magi accepted the baby Jesus as the king of the Jews. Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. This gift to Jesus was a symbolic of his willingness to become a sacrifice. Myrrh was used in ancient times for embalming the bodies of the dead before burial. It was a fitting “gift” for Jesus who was born to die.
There were three groups of people who reacted to the Epiphany of Christ’s birth. The first group, headed by King Herod the Great, tried to eliminate him, the second group, priests and scribes, ignored him, and the third group, represented by the shepherds and the Magi, came to adore him.
Let us make sure that we belong to the third group: a) by worshiping Jesus at Mass with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration
- b) by giving a new direction to our lives. As the Magi chose another route to return to their homes, we need to choose a better way of life, abstaining from proud and impure thoughts, evil habits and selfish behavior
- c) by becoming stars leading others to Jesus as the star led the Magi to Jesus — removing the darkness of the evil around us and radiating Jesus’ love through selfless service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate care.
Thomas Merton was a famous Christian writer. He was converted to the Catholic religion, and later became a Trappist monk. He was an author of many books. In one of his books, he says that he once met a Hindu sanyasi (ascetic). The sanyasi said to him that he loved two lovely Christian books: The Confessions of St. Augustine and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis. He suggested Merton read these two books. What an irony! A non-Christian recommending two great Christian classics to a Christian! This is the paradox in life — we have such wealth, yet, because of our ignorance, we live like beggars. The same thing happened to the Jews; they were the Chosen ones but did not find the Messiah.
On this feast of the Epiphany, let us, like the Magi, offer Jesus our grateful use of his gifts to us: His gift of friendship with God in the form of wholehearted love and devotion,
His gift of friendship with others by leading them to Jesus through our exemplary lives of Christian charity in action,
His gift of reconciliation with God by daily asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins and giving unconditional forgiveness to our offenders and His gift of peace by seeking God’s peace in our own lives through prayer, leading a Sacramental life and meditation daily on the Word of God.