Homily for the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord - Year B - Mt. 2:1-12


by

Canon Dr. 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.' "


Jesus, the Son of God, was born in Bethlehem approximately 2000 years ago. This took place at night, in darkness. He was born in a grotto or a stable, in poverty. There was no great crowd to acclaim the coming into the world of the Son of the Almighty. There was, of course, Joseph the husband of Mary. There were also a few shepherds. But the latter had been informed by angels, they had received a sign from Heaven which allowed them to recognize the Son of God, who had become like one of us: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." (Lk. 2:11-12)


God sent his Son to earth to reveal himself in person, at the price of the bloody sacrifice of Calvary: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son." (Jn. 3:16) God, our Father, loves us with an infinite love in order to make us his sons and daughters, for his own glory and our eternal happiness. But if the Father loves us, it is in his Son Jesus that he lavishes all his love upon us: Jesus is the true and unique Son of the Father, and we are only his adopted children... It is in Jesus that we are sons and daughters of the Father. It is Jesus whom the Father loves, in the Holy Spirit! And this love for his Son is something to which the Father ceaselessly testifies: never does the Father abandon his Son or any of those who are united to him through grace and faith!


He was just born, and already the Father testifies to his love for his Son by sending angels to announce to the shepherds the birth of Christ the Lord. A short time later, or probably at the same time, the Father informs the magi, who were perhaps kings, and most probably scientists, that the Lord of the Universe had just come into this world. In order to do this, the Father uses the sign of a star, of a celestial body, whose sudden appearance was undoubtedly corroborated by other signs and prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. "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. "


When the magi met with King Herod, he took everything they told him very seriously. One cannot suspect the magi of being frauds and of having made up their story: on the contrary, they were very honest people. Moreover, would God have trusted people who were not in good faith? No. The star that the magi had seen was truly a sign from God!


Moreover, Jesus himself confirmed it, for he spoke about his second coming, at the end of time, and then too the stars would be used by the Father to testify to his love for his beloved Son and to prepare the nations to receive him, no longer as their Savior, but as their sovereign and eternal Judge: "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars." (Lk. 21:25)


King Herod would try to bring to ruin the efforts of God the Father to manifest to the entire world the coming of his beloved Son. Herod tries in vain to divert this sign of God and use it to destroy the divine plan. But what can he do against the omnipotence of God? Nothing. Instead, he will make it possible for the glory of the Lord to be even greater and more magnificent. For, the simple sign of that star will become a unique jewel, a rare pearl crimsoned by the blood of innocent martyrs: the children whom King Herod ordered to be killed in their tens and hundreds!


Herod found out from the magi the exact time the star appeared: "Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared." And so, by supposing that the star appeared to the magi on the day of Jesus' birth, Herod was able to determine the approximate age of the child, and he then ordered the massacre of all the male children of that age: "He 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)


" 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. "


Having disengaged themselves from the schemes of King Herod, the magi continued on their way, following the star of the Lord. Thanks to God, the magi left far behind them the counsels and intrigues of men, following only the signs God gave them in order to find the Savior of the Universe! And all of this fills them with joy! For joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, joy is given to he who listens to and follows the teachings of the Lord.


The magi continued on their way, following the star, just as one may follow the pole star to direct oneself northwards. This star is their guide, leading them to the Savior of the world: is it not like that Stella Maris, that Star of the Sea, who is called Mary, the Mother of Jesus? Indeed, what is the best and greatest proof of the love of the Father for his Son and for all men? Is it not the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Savior of men?


" 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. "


The sign disappeared: it gave way to the reality! Here is no longer the star, but rather Mary, the Mother of Jesus. It is she who now presents to the magi her first-born Son: "Going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother." The magi thought only of finding Christ, the Messiah, but they found more: Christ with Mary, his Mother! God testifies to his love for us by sending us his own Son, but the love of God is boundless and it urges him to always give us more, much more than we could ever hope for!


Having found Mary and her child, the magi hastened to offer them gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Perhaps this was their entire fortune? If they had found the Lord of the Universe, what did it matter now if they were rich or poor? For the Lord God must be the only wealth that matters in the eyes of those whom the Father calls to his love! Whoever we are, if the love of the Father is upon us, what more could we wish for? Let us not hesitate: let us free ourselves from our riches and our covetousness! For there is more joy in giving than receiving.


" And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. "


Once again, God watches over those who love him! God, in his providence, is there: he provides for all our needs, if weplace our trust in him. The magi gained all its benefits: they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, who, without any doubt, would have had them killed one way or another. Let us ask Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Mother of the Church, to teach us this gentle confidence in the caring love of the Father who is in Heaven, with his Son Jesus, in the Glory of the Spirit of Love who unites them!



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