January 7, 2024: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is the one who has been born the ruler of the Jews? For we have seen the star in the East and have come to worship.” When Herod the king heard this he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 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 of Judea, 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 Magi secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found the anointed one, bring me word that I too may come and worship.” 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. Going into the house, they saw the child with Mary, his mother, and fell down in worship. Then, opening their treasures, they offered the child their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. Being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
This Gospel for the feast of the Epiphany is rich in imagery. A star provides guidance and light. Gifts are presented to the Christ child. Each of these precious gifts has a symbolic meaning … gold (symbolic of Christ the King), frankincense (used in temple worship and symbolic of Christ the High Priest), and myrrh (a perfume used to anoint the dead anticipates Jesus’ death and is symbolic of Christ the Prophet).
The Magi were wise men and were filled with great joy at their encounter with the child Jesus. They were a positive presence juxtaposed to Herod who was duplicitous, deceitful, power hungry. Fortunately, the Magi were discerning and contemplative as well. They trusted the “dream” in which they were warned and instructed to return home by another route.
This is a very short Christmas season as was Advent! In just two weeks (length of Christmas 2023) we will leap into Ordinary Time. Since many have been in the spirit of Christmas since Thanksgiving Day or before, perhaps the season has been long enough. For those of us who have tried to honor the spirit of each season, not so much so! Be that as it is. As we enter upon 2024 let us pray for discernment in the challenges that may face us throughout the year. We can nurture discernment by living a contemplative life, turning each day to God in quiet reflection and prayer.