In the year 614 AD, Jerusalem was captured by the Persians (a predominant ethnic group from Modern-day Iran). Many Churches in the Holy Sites, were destroyed. One site spared from destruction though was the Church of the Nativity for the reason that the invaders found a mosaic on the inside walls depicting the three wise men in Persian clothing.
For me it is an interesting snippet of history not only because today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany which celebrates the story of the manifestation of God to all the world as symbolized by the ‘wise men from the east’ visiting the child Jesus, but also because, the story of the Church being spared from the invaders somehow echoes the story of the child Jesus being spared from Herod’s mandate to kill all the children in Jerusalem.
There is indeed a Divine plan at work in here. God is with us indeed! When it is God’s plan and divine design, no human being, nor human institution can ever block it. God will always find his way and if we look through the eyes of our faith, we can see the beauty of God’s presence and how God reveals himself to us even now.
We celebrate today the feast of the Epiphany- “the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world.” (CCC 528). Again a Divine plan.
Matthew in the gospel tells us of this manifestation of Jesus to all the world as represented by ‘some wise men from the east.’
St Paul would go even further, in his letter to the Ephesians, by sharing his understanding of the mystery of God’s revelation as an assurance that ‘pagans now share the same inheritance‘, that is, the Jews and Gentiles are all included in God’s plan of salvation.
So indeed, with the Psalmist we can rightly pray and say: ‘Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.’
So now let us reflect on what happened on the Epiphany or how do the wise men experience the manifestation of God in their lives?
First: The wise men found Jesus because they allowed themselves to be guided by a star that brings them to Jesus. This is a call to humility—willingness to learn and listen, as well as a call to be wise and reflective in our lives.
In our lives, we are following stars in some ways. People whom we are looking up to, people whom we believe are shining. But like the wise men, we have to be wise. We need to pray for wisdom and ask ourselves:
(1) Are our stars leading us to the right way of living? (2) Are they serving as the light of our way?
(3) And lastly, are they leading us to Jesus?
Let us remember this: A true STAR is
– Someone who would
-Take us/teach us to
-Realization of our true dreams and true selves.
Second, they brought him gifts, gifts that are of great significance to the recipient—to the child Jesus. They gave him Gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In biblical interpretation and tradition, the gifts of the wise men, signify the humanity, the divinity and the kingship of Jesus. According to a Jesuit priest, Mark Link, the “three gifts of the magi reveal three truths about Jesus. First, the myrrh symbolizes the humanity of Jesus [for Myrrh later on would be used for his burial]. Second, the frankincense symbolizes the divinity of Jesus [for incense is usually used in the temple rituals, worship and adoration to God]. Third, the gold symbolizes the kingship of Jesus. Jesus came among us to lead us, to inspire us, to invite us to join him in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth- a kingdom of love, and kingdom of peace, a kingdom of hope.”
For us now, there are at least three gifts we could gift to Jesus (3H’s): Head that is wise yet humble, Heart that is repentant and loving, and Hands that are welcoming and generous. In other words, let us be people of integrity, one whose thoughts, words and deeds, whose beliefs and actions are in sync not contradicting each other.
Third, the wise men went back to their own countries by a different way. They didn’t go back to Herod. This means they prefer loyalty to the true king of heaven rather than the earthly king. This also means change of hearts- conversion of our lives.
Today Jesus invites us to experience his presence and manifestation in our lives and in our world.
Like the wise men, let us look up to and follow the star or stars in our lives that lead us to Jesus.
Let us also endeavour to offer God the rights gifts we could offer to him: to be a person who thinks wisely, loves heartily and unconditionally, and gives generously.
Lastly, let us respond to God’s call to conversion (i.e. repentance of our sins and resolve to do good and avoid evil) for it is or it is our insurance for eternal life.
If we take this to heart, like the wise men, we can also experience the beauty of the presence of God among us and even encounter God at work in our lives. Amen.