Epiphany of the Lord Solemnity
Gospel: Matthew 2: 1-12
With the feast of Epiphany, we are bidding farewell to the season of Christmas and moving forward to the first week of ordinary time. On Thursday the fifth of January, our mother Church bid farewell to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a great leader, and prophet who led the church through troubled waters. May the good Lord grant him eternal rest.
The Birth of Jesus was announced to different sets of people in different ways; the shepherds were told by the angels, the magi read it from the sky: observing the movements of the star, the priests and scribes of Jerusalem were told by three wise men from East who turned up out of nowhere in search of the newborn king, and Herod was confirmed of the news by the scribes and priests. Though the means were different, they all were told of the birth of Jesus Christ. The responses were equally different.
The shepherds immediately left their possessions, the sheep, and went in search of the savior born. The magi forgot their families and possessions, packed valuable gifts, and set out for an uncertain journey, risking their lives and possessions. They were not sure where the star would lead them to.
The Jews were in anticipation of the Messiah for centuries. And the chief priests and the scribes were in full knowledge of it. They were spot on when they concluded from the scriptures that he must be born in Bethlehem. And they were told by visiting magi that he was already born. None of them had the light within prompting them to set out and visit the promised Messiah; what a terrible mistake! Their hard-earned knowledge of scripture was a total waste as that could not lead them to the feet of the promised one.
Herod was told of the divine birth by the wise men from the east; it was confirmed by his trusted chief priests and scribes. He felt threatened. He was unsettled. He wanted to reach him so that he can kill him at the earliest and feel safe once again.
The cycle is on for centuries now.
Each year starts reminding us of the king born in the small town of Bethlehem. Some would rush to the crib with the joy of the shepherds. Like the shepherds, they shall return to their routines with hearts full of joy. Reaffirming once again that they are valuable in the eyes of God. They have happy news to share, and reasons to be joyful.
Then there are those wise men who would take the long route to Jesus. Think of St. Paul. It was not an easy road for him to reach Jesus. The road was long, winding, and painful. Yet he reached him and did not return to his old self. ‘They (the magi) departed for their country by another way’ (Mt 2: 12) are the concluding words of today’s gospel. There are those who encounter Jesus and take an altogether different turn.
The high priests and the scribes were supposedly the most informed of the pack. They had the books; they knew how to read them and interpret them. Look at the way they concluded perfectly that the long-awaited Messiah must be born at Bethlehem. And they were told by wise men from unknown lands that he was indeed born. Surprisingly they did not even have some curiosity left with them to verify what was learned and told was correct! They represent the highly informed and indifferent lot.
Finally, there is a man who feels threatened by the baby in Bethlehem. Herod was the most sleepless man in the pack. He wanted to get rid of him. Ever since those days, the story is being repeated. Even today there are rulers and the powerful who are afraid of Jesus; the reasons may vary but the fear is the same. They want to silence him forever. Some kill him in their conscience, others try to kill him from the collective human conscience. Few learn from the mistakes of their predecessors.
You can’t easily bypass Bethlehem. The feast of Epiphany reminds us once again that we can’t just ignore and bypass Bethlehem. May the prince born in Bethlehem fill your hearts with joy that no one can steal from you, and let Him guide and make you bold enough to take the new road if it is necessary.