An 8-year-old asked, "How come the kings brought perfume to Jesus? What kind of gift is that for a baby?" His 9-year-old sister answered, "Haven't you ever smelled a barn? With dirty animals around, Mary needed something to freshen the air."
Happy New Year!! We are still in the spirit of Christmas and it prepares us to receive the New Year. This year the first Sunday of the New Year 2020 is Sunday of Epiphany.
Most of us have sweet memories of the time that our parents first brought us, as little children, to kneel at the Christmas crib and marvel at the peaceful scene before us. The baby Jesus has his arms reaching out as if to embrace everyone in the world. That image sums up perfectly the meaning of His Epiphany, or manifestation, to the three wise men from the East: Jesus, in sharing our humanity, invites men and women of all nations and races to share in His kingdom.
The wise men are from the East, but from where in the East? There are three predictions about the place. Some predict that they are from Persia; some others say they are from Babylon. The third prediction is from Arabia. Today’s first reading from the book of Isaiah gives us more approval from the third prediction which is Arabia. In the first reading, we read, “Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.” Matthew is looking at the prophecy of Isaiah which tells us about the non-Israelites bringing gifts to the Lord. In Psalm 72, we read today that “The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Sheba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.”
The Magi were not members of the Chosen Jewish People, so the Epiphany today shows Jesus came for all people. The Magi shows us that there is no substitute for an open heart and mind. Jews knew about the coming of Jesus, but they did not recognize his birth. But Magi came looking for a king. On their way to Bethlehem, where did inquire first for a king? They inquired at the palace. Who else is likely to be there? A royal family. But the Magi came to a cave or a stable where they found a poor family, with animals and perhaps a few shepherds. Of course, they found their King: “falling to their knees, they did him homage.”
Today, another character in the Gospel is Herod. He does not have an attitude of reverence and respect for Jesus. Herod pretends that he is just as respectful to Jesus as the wise men. He tells them, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” These words were not out of respect, but out of fear.
Jesus came for everyone. Some rejected him out of fear like Herod, others came and worshiped him out of love like shepherds and Magi. Father revealed his son to the world. Jesus reveals to us every day of our life: in the Eucharist and other sacraments, devotions, in our sisters and brothers. Do we recognize him?
Like the Magi, let us open our minds and hearts to receive Child Jesus and offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of Epiphany. What are the gifts we can offer: the first gift might be friendship with God. God wants our friendship in the form of wholehearted love, commitment and devotion. The second gift of this season is the gift of peace: seeking God’s peace in our own lives through prayer, sacramental life and daily meditation on the Word of God. A thirds gift might be friends with others expressed by encouraging them by our visits and helping them in their needs. A fourth gift might be the gift of reconciliation: repairing damaged relationships in and outside our families. Let us become a gift to God and one another.