Homily for the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord - Year A - 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.' "


Today, to communicate news to the entire world, man uses artificial satellites launched from the earth and placed into orbit by means of powerful rockets. In his goodness, the Lord, the Spirit of God, has allowed his creature to invent such machines in order to bring all the men and women of the world closer together. But, two thousand years ago, there were neither rockets nor satellites. So God allowed man to use creation as a means of spreading news, as it were, throughout the entire universe; not all news, but at least the most important news there is: that of the coming of his Son into the world!


It is thus that the magi, who were probably learned men, knowledgeable in astronomy and in the history of the great civilizations, came to understand, thanks to the signs in the heavens, that the Messiah, he whom the Jews awaited as their King and Liberator, had been born. Conscious of their smallness as men and creatures, they hastened to Palestine, and more precisely to the capital of Judaea: Jerusalem! For they were so imbued with the grandeur of nature, which revealed to them some of the Mystery of God, that they could not stop themselves from leaving their country and going to pay homage to He who had created this marvelous and well-ordered universe!


"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.' "


When King Herod learned that the Messiah had been born, it was not via the stars that this news had come to him, but rather by way of the announcement made to him by the magi themselves. After the Lord used nature to announce the birth of his Son, he then made use of men, those rational creatures whom, in his immense Love, he created in his image and likeness. Unfortunately, while nature is always what it is, that is, invariable in its laws and in its logic, on the contrary, man has, ever since the original sin, been capable of deception and lies. So, why would King Herod believe the magi when they proclaimed to him the birth of the Messiah? Quite simply, because of their upright hearts: the intention of the magi was pure, and it was in this spirit that they came to worship the Messiah.


But Herod is a perfidious man, jealous for his throne and his power: he already fears the coming of the "King of the Jews"! The heart of Herod is not pure, and that which he is, a liar and a deceiver, is what he thinks others are as well: he does not have full confidence in the word of the magi... So, Herod consults the scribes and asks them what Holy Scripture says on this subject. For Holy Scripture, although written by sinners, is a holy word: the very Word of God. So, the doctors and scribes report to Herod the following passage of the Prophet Micah: "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." (Micah 5:1)


"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."


The perfidy of Herod bursts forth into the light of day: he summons the magi in secret! Now, it is not secrecy that the Lord wants, but rather the manifestation and glory of his Son! Of course, Jesus will live thirty years in secrecy, except for the time when he taught in the Temple at about the age of twelve (cf. Lk. 2:42). But why this secrecy, why this hidden life? It was quite simply part of his Passion, a silent Passion, but a Passion nonetheless, for the Word of Life, the Word of God, is something that is listened to, something that is heard, something that is shouted out to the ends of the earth! "What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops." (Mt. 10:27)


"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."


It was not necessary to consult the Holy Scriptures: the star that the magi had seen in the East indicated a very precise place, undoubtedly even more precise than that indicated by the Prophet Micah. Indeed, the star indicated the exact location of the child God! The Messiah, the Christ came to fulfill the scriptures, but he himself is not a written word: he is a living person, the Word of Life! Christ is the Word of God in person, he is perfect in himself, and in him all of creation is recapitulated! Even if Holy Scripture leads us to Christ, it is only the Holy Spirit who vivifies the sacred text and who gives us the joy of the living presence of the Lord: "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."


Between the time when the star had appeared to the magi in the East, and the moment when they entered the house of Mary, there had elapsed a considerable amount of time. Moreover, it was this period of time of which Herod spoke when he asked the magi for the date of the apparition: "Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared." It seems that this period of time consisted of two years, for Saint Matthew then reports that Herod "sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men." (Mt. 2:16) This two-year period would seem to permit us to say that, although they were still in Bethlehem, the Holy Family were no longer staying in a grotto on the outskirts of town, but rather in a "house", as Saint Matthew writes.


The coming of the magi into the "house" of God then takes on a whole new dimension: it was a prophetic act that announced the submission of all things to Christ at the time of his second coming. Gold, incense, myrrh, the kingship of these magi, everything is for Christ the King of the Universe, to whom the Father, the Creator of the world, entrusted all things, in the unity of the Holy Spirit! But this great King of the Universe already has his companion, his Queen: Mary! Indeed, the magi pay homage to "the child with Mary": Christ always wants to associate Mary his Mother with his glory and his triumph, forever and ever. Amen!



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