Sunday, January 7, 2018

“What are you doing, O Magi? Do you adore a little Babe, in a wretched hovel, wrapped in miserable rags? Can this Child be truly God? … Did you become foolish, O Wise Men … Yes, these Wise Men have become fools that they may be wise.”

For by gold the power of a king is signified, by frankincense the honor of God, by myrrh the burial of the body; and accordingly they offer Him gold as King, frankincense as God, myrrh as Man.— St John Chrysostom: (349 –407: Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father)

Gospel Text: (MT 2:1-12)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage."
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel."
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
"Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage."
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

As we celebrate the Epiphany, we see three wise men arriving at the manger scene. They were men willing to sacrifice of themselves in order to find a newborn King. This is a sign of their wisdom: their willingness to sacrifice.

Their sacrifices reflect not only their own wisdom. Their sacrifices also reflect the wisdom of the One they were seeking. In other words, they were willing to sacrifice so greatly because they believed in the greatness of the One they were seeking.

Each of the wise men was willing to leave the realm where he was king—where everyone bowed down before him—in order to find the King of Kings before whom he could kneel in homage. Each of the wise men was willing to give up his riches in order to find an even greater treasure.

There are many people who believe they’re rich, but who actually have become satisfied with riches that—in the end—are not going to do them any real good. This usually happens because people don’t recognize that inside the human soul, the desire for sacrifice is greater than the desire for the riches of the world.

Look at these three wise kings. Look at their sacrifices. There are at least two sacrifices that each king makes.

The first sacrifice is the journey that each makes. He leaves behind the land where he rules and where he is in control, in order to bow down before the Ruler of Heaven and Earth.

The second sacrifice is what each sacrifices from his treasury, to place before the new-born King. But these gifts are given as a response to a greater Gift.

Jesus is the greater Gift. The wise man knows that the whole world, and every land, and every person in every land, will receive from Jesus an infinite blessing, if accepted. The gifts of the wise men are only responses to God’s goodness. God’s goodness—that is, His love—is primary. Always. Our response is only and always secondary, both in sequence and in the measure of its goodness.

In God the Father giving us the Gift of His Son, the Father calls us to give a gift in response. But we might understandably worry, asking, “What can measure up to God’s gift? God’s gift is infinite. I cannot give an infinite gift.”

This is true. We can only give our “all” to God. In this way, at least, we can give as God gives: as the old saying goes, not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice. If we give as God gives—by giving Him our “all”—we tap into what is best in us: the desire to give, not to get; to take joy in showering others with good things, not to accumulate them for oneself; to take interest in the growth of one’s soul, not to watch the growth of one’s accounts with interest; to sacrifice our time and pride by saying “thank you” rather than looking for the applause of the world.

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