Meditation of the week

A mission for all people

Mt 2,1-12. 

The word Epiphany comes from the Greek word, epiphaneia, meaning a manifestation or making something known. In this feast we celebrate the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Magi, who symbolically represent the whole gentile world. The message of this feast is that Jesus has come to be Messiah, Son of God, for the people of Israel, and for all peoples, regardless of race, creed, colour, age, or gender.

The familiar story of the visit of the Magi is a masterpiece of symbolism, theology, and good news. Matthew wrote his gospel for a Jewish audience to convince them that Jesus was the expected Messiah, the fulfilment of the Law and the prophets and  of Israel’s long-cherished hopes.  Since Jesus is the expected Messiah, naturally Matthew’s infancy narrative, places stronger emphasis on his royal credentials, than does Luke’s. He is born in Bethlehem, David’s royal city. The coming of the magi occasioned by the sight of a star rising in the heavens, betokening the birth of a king, is resonant of an Old Testament prophecy by a pagan seer Balaam. (Num 25,7).  He predicted that a star would rise from Jacob, and from Israel’s seed would rise a man who would rule many nations. This text was applied to David, and later to the awaited Messiah in Old Testament times, and now for Matthew it throws light on Jesus as Messiah.

The star brings the Magi to Jerusalem but it doesn’t tell them the exact whereabouts of the new-born infant- king of the Jews. The chief priests and scribes of the people (experts in the Scriptures), convened by Herod to find out where the Christ/Messiah was supposed to be born and informed him that Bethlehem was the place. The Magi then find the child with his mother Mary, and falling on their knees they worship him.  The chief priests in Jerusalem with all their information about the Messiah lacked the faith or interest to find and worship him.  Having worshipped him, and given him gifts, befitting a royal, similar to those mentioned in today’s reading from Isaiah, and in Ps 71 (72), the Magi, warned in a dream, (4 dreams in Mt’s infancy narrative), return home by a different route. A changed return route for changed people! “No longer at ease here, in the old dispensation.” T S Eliot “The Magi.”

God sometimes uses the most unexpected people and situations to further his plans. The infamous Herod unwittingly helped the Magi to move from natural knowledge, (the star), to revelation and faith.  God uses us too, to be his epiphany to others.  Made in his image and likeness, we are eminently qualified for the task.

The feast of the Epiphany reveals Jesus’ universal mission to all people, which the Church, missionary by nature, continues.

What gift, do you think he would most want you to give him?

Father Geoff O’Grady