Homily for the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord

Year B - Mt. 2:1-12


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: `And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'"


"Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way."





Homily:


"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.'"


After the birth of Jesus, the Magi, who came from the East, arrived in Jerusalem to worship the Lord of Heaven and earth. We are not certain about the exact amount of time between the birth of the Child God and the arrival of the Magi. But we can make the reasonable assumption that the star of the Lord was seen by the Magi, in the East, long before the birth of Jesus. God disposes all things in number, weight and measure, and it was a very simple thing for him to manifest to the Magi the sign of the star several weeks or months before the birth, according to the flesh, of his Son. Had he not sent his Angel to Joseph to warn him in time that Mary would give birth to the Savior of mankind? Thus, if an Angel, a purely spiritual creature, announced to Joseph the future birth of Jesus, it is completely suitable that, in a similar way, and as a complement to this, a star, a purely material creature, would also announce the coming birth of the Son of God made man. In this way, both the spiritual and material world participated in announcing to mankind the most important birth that has ever taken place. Moreover, isn't it the same evangelist - Saint Matthew - who relates both the announcement of the Angel (cf. Mt. 1:20-21) and that of the star?


"When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: `And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'"


So the Magi arrived in Jerusalem. This is normal: for the Magi assumed that the Messiah would have been born in the principal city of his kingdom. Or, if he were not born there, he would at least have been taken there a few days after his birth. The Magi had no doubt about the dignity of he who was born: they had seen the star, and, after having seen it, they believed, just like Saint John when he saw the empty tomb of the Resurrected One: "Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed." (Jn. 20:8)


The Magi firmly believed that a Savior had been born, and they expected to find him in Jerusalem. For them, it was inconceivable that the Lord of Heaven and earth would have been relegated to some small town, such as Bethlehem. How great was their surprise, and disappointment, to see King Herod and all Jerusalem become so agitated when they spoke of the birth of the Messiah! Already, without doubt, this lamentable disappointment alerted them, making them more eager to discover whether they were being led into a trap by this second-rate king: Herod. For spiritual men, those who are attentive to the things of God (and the Magi were such men), judge all things, and their mind is quickly alerted to deceptive machinations.


So the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. The Holy Spirit had announced this through his prophet Micah. However, Jerusalem did not await the Messiah as she should have. It will be the same at the end of time, when the Lord Jesus will appear on the clouds of Heaven. For, then, it will no longer be the birth of the Son of God alone, but rather the birth of the entire Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. At the present time, each believer is in the womb of the Church just as Jesus was in the womb of Mary, his Mother. At the end of time, the Mystical Body of Christ having attained its fullness, all believers, united in the Spirit, will finally be truly born, all of them resembling Christ himself: "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 Jn. 3:2)


"Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, 'Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.' When they had heard the king they went their way."


Herod made enquiries of the Magi: he wanted to know the precise date when the star had appeared to them... When one knows the importance of the planetary revolutions and that of astrology among all peoples, even to this day, it is easy to understand the interest expressed by King Herod in this sort of information. But there is more. If we join together all three of the announcements concerning the Messiah: those made to Mary, to Joseph, and to the Magi, we understand the primordial interest of such information even better. For, when the Son of God took on flesh in the Virgin Mary, it

was at this precise instant that the eternity of God penetrated into time, thus bringing time to its fullness: "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman." (Ga. 4:4)


"And lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh."


Where did the Magi find the Child Jesus? In a house, says Saint Matthew. But which one? In what town or village? Probably Bethlehem. But Saint Matthew does not say... The Magi knew, but the star told them this by guiding them there. For us, it remains an enigma... Is this not another way of proclaiming the Return of the Lord? Saint Matthew reports the following words of the Lord, speaking of his return: "Then if any one says to you, `Lo, here is the Christ!' or `There he is!' do not believe it... So, if they say to you, `Lo, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out; if they say, `Lo, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it." (Mt. 24:23,26) We do not know where the Magi worshipped the Child Jesus, for, at the end of time, Jesus will not be in one place or another, but instead he will be everywhere at the same time, for the notion of time is always relative to the the notion of place, and when the time is full, place will also be full, so that what is here will also be there, all of creation no longer having any dimension. "For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man." (Mt. 24:27)


With the Magi, let us worship the Lord! With Mary, let us present our offering, that of ourselves, and let us pray to the Lord so that he will deign to welcome us in him, in order to present us himself to the Father, in the Holy Spirit!