Meditation of the week

Adoration of Jesus

Mt 2,1-12.

At the time of the writing of the gospels, stories were one of the chief means of instruction and a highly regarded vehicle of meaning.  The primary question a story elicited in the listener was; what does this story mean? What lesson(s) does it teach?

What does the story of the Epiphany and the story of the Magi mean for Matthew’s audience and for us?  We see from the reaction of king Herod, the chief priests, and scribes, to the question by the wise men about the whereabouts of the birthplace of the infant king of the Jews, – they were perturbed – that it was, definitely, an unwelcome novelty in Jerusalem.  The collective hostility of the capital will arise again in Matthew’s gospel at Jesus’ trial (27,22). The idea that the wise men genuinely came to worship the new-born king added significantly to Herod’s unease, and to his determination to remove this potential competitor as quickly as possible, and contrasts strikingly, with his hypocritical wish to worship him, as well.

Once the chief priests and scribes have instructed Herod and the wise men about where the prophet Micah (5,1) said the Messiah would be born, the wise men are sent off to find him in Bethlehem.  The light from prophecy combined with the light of the star leads them to the house where they  find him. Entering  the house, they see the child and his mother Mary. The phrase, “Falling on their knees they did him homage” occurs seven times in the New Testament with Matthew being the only gospel to use it (2,11; 4,9; 18,26).  It implies adoration of and faith in Jesus the Messiah.

The gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh are associated with Messianic times as in today’ first reading from Isaiah 60,6, and they also befit a king.

Being warned in a dream – an important mode of divine communication for Matthew in his infancy narrative – the wise men departed by another way. The verb which Matthew uses for “departed” (anachorein) is employed in his gospel, (10 times in Mt but never used in the other gospels), to indicate retreat from opposition, hostility or unbelief.

The visit of the magi is a story of the search for the Messiah, inspired by a sign from God – (the star), and successfully completed with the unwitting help of Herod and the expert advice of the chief priest and scribes; both parties, unwittingly, making known the very one they wanted destroyed.

It is a story of open-minded Gentile outsiders discovering and worshipping the Messiah whom close-minded Jewish insiders failed to recognise or adore. It is a story of outsider’s faith and insider’s disbelief.

The magi travelled great distances to find and worship someone to whom the learned locals of Jerusalem were blind and antagonistic. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

God is always making himself known to people in different ways. Has He ever given you a sign of His love, and presence in your life?  If so, how did you respond to it?

The Epiphany is a story of Jesus being made known to gentiles.  Can you think of new and imaginative ways we can try to make him known to our society today?

Fr Geoff O’Grady