January 7, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

The Epiphany of the Lord is a liturgical solemnity celebrating the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. This in effect expands the understanding of Jesus as the King of the Jews. Based on the church’s experience that the incarnation of Jesus Christ was not a revelation limited to Judaism, the story of the Epiphany focuses on the universal mission Jesus embraced symbolized here by the presence of the magi from the east.
At the heart of the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is Matthew’s magnificent story of the magi searching out the newborn King of the Jews in order to pay him homage. The narrative is filled with irony. The first people to search out the newborn King of the Jews have no connection with Judaism at all. They are astrologers (magi) from the east. They are Gentiles. They found their way to Jerusalem by following a mysterious star, which somehow they related to Jesus. The magi know that Jesus is the newborn King of the Jews, whereas Herod, who is vassal king of the Jews, has no idea about Jesus. He immediately thinks that this new born king is a contender for the secular throne, and he finds this very troubling. In fact, no one associated with Judaism in the story seems to have any knowledge of the Messiah, where he was to be born, or when this was supposed to happen. Herod has to consult with the chief priests and scribes, but they are of no help beyond a remote recollection about Bethlehem being the place.
Herod attempts to gain information from the magi by pretending that he is really interested in paying homage to this newborn king. Clearly he is interested because he wants to kill him. While nothing works out for Herod, everything works out for the magi. Once again the mysterious star led them to where they needed to go. The real meaning of this child’s birth will not be mani-fested until his death and resurrection.

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