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Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord – Jewish Roots of Gentile Faith


“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet…’ Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’ After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2:1-5; 7-12).
 
Who are these magi? They are searchers. They are observers of the night sky and the forces of nature. They are not afraid to get up and follow their instincts and hunches about where the divine is calling them.
 
Most people assume that the star leads the magi directly to Bethlehem and to Jesus, but it doesn’t. The rising of the star leads them to Micah 5:1 and 2 Samuel 5:2, Scripture that speaks of Jesus’ coming. This small detail is extremely important. The Gentile magi must immerse themselves in the atmosphere of Jerusalem and the history of Israel found there, or they will never find the King of the Jews.
 
So the magi sojourn in Jerusalem where they are enlightened. The star is no longer simply an object in the night sky but the star that “shall advance from Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). Now the star is a true guide to Jesus. They pay homage and offer gifts.
 
But not everyone sees Jesus as worthy of homage and gifts. Some will see the King of the Jews who will proclaim the kingdom of God as threatening the “kingdoms” that are already here. There is no room for another kingdom, especially one calling for an end to violence and greed and one promoting the justice and reconciliation of the Torah or Law. So while the magi do homage, others plot murder.
 
This same choice lies before stargazers and Bible readers today. It is not about stars or about words on a page. It is about hearts open to the future that God wants for us, or hearts hardened around limited self-interests. The magi chose. How do we choose?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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