The Epiphany of the Lord, 2 January, 2022: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi from the east are genuine seekers of the truth who brave the risks of travel through an inhospitable terrain to reach their goal in an unknown land and an unknown religion. They have read the cryptic signs in the heavens and, like us in our spiritual lives, journey by an unknown route to an, as yet, unexperienced goal. They are not content to know about this manifestation but must experience and honor it for themselves.
Herod the Great may be the King of Judea, he may have refurbished lavishly the Temple of Jerusalem, but he is not Jewish by birth. His father was an Idumean official and his mother a Nabatean princess. Judaism was his adopted religion and this religious identity was a useful political tool to extend his influence and power. For all his connections, Roman patronage, wealth and power, he only learns of this great manifestation foretold by Jewish prophets, from the Magi, and it threatens him. Responsible for the convenient deaths of his Jewish wife and his most capable son, exterminating an unknown infant is his pragmatic reaction to the news. Isn’t it bizarre that a powerful king feels threatened by a helpless infant?
But this, too, is a characteristic reaction to the manifestation of God-with-us. Such a theophany is not irresistibly welcomed, but only intentionally and willfully welcomed. Almost inevitably, the revelation of God’s presence and work among us may provoke active resistance, no matter what guise it assumes.
It may also be met by indifference; there’s no mention in today’s Gospel that the priests and scribes of the people, whom Herod consulted, had any reaction at all.
Through this Gospel I am asked, what is my reaction or response to the manifestation of God’s Word in our flesh? What might I fear in this revelation? Would I have to abandon my sense of being a victim—and the prerogatives that accrue to victimhood? Would securing the privileges I associate with my entitlement have to give way to gratitude for what already blesses my life? Following that star, would I be displaced as the center of my universe? Would my judgementalism be revealed as a cover for my own inadequacies?
Can I willingly and intentionally invite God-with-us into my life, whatever it costs me?