First Reading: Isaiah 60. 1 – 6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 72
Second Reading: Ephesians 3. 2 – 3a, 5 – 6
Gospel: Matthew 2. 1 – 12
From the beginning of creation hundreds perhaps thousands of men have eagerly sought for the Revelation of God. They have renounced their joys and comforts and have wandered through the desserts and plains and forests and meadows to have a glimpse of God. Their unfulfilled desire to see God face to face eluded them for centuries. Finally, the long enclosed craving was satisfied in the birth of Jesus Christ. Man saw God on the face of Jesus Christ. Prophet Isaiah writes in his book, “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Look they young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him Emmanuel” which means, “God is with us”. (Is. 7:14) This event will transform all who labour and toil and they shall see the Light of life. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans reminds all peoples of God’s call to be the heirs of His Kingdom. And Jesus Christ, descended from King David was declared to be the Son of God. (Rom 1: 1-7).
In the Gospel, Matthew describes the coming of the Magi to Jerusalem seeking the new born King of the Jews. The word, “Magi” comes from the Persian language. Magus is singular of Magi which means Persian who possessed supernatural powers. They are the three wise men of the East who bore gifts to Jesus.
According to tradition the Magi came to visit Jesus. Their names are; the first Melchior, an old man with white hair and a long beard, who offered gold to Jesus. The second was Gasper, a young man, beardless and of red complexion, who offered frankincense to Jesus. The third was Balthazar, who was beardless and of black complexion who offered myrrh to Jesus.
These three men having undergone many trials and tribulations for the sake of the Gospel, met at Sebaste in Aemania in the year 54 A.D. to celebrate the feast of Christmas. After celebrating the Mass they died. St. Melehior on January 1st at the age of 116. St. Balthazar on January 6th at the age of 112, and St. Gasper on January 11th at the age of 109. Their corporeal relics brought from Persia to Constantinople in the year 490 A.D. by Emperor Zeno. Much later the relics appeared in Milan and from there they went to Cologne in the year 1162 A.D. Today their relics remain in Cologne in a magnificently embellished shrine. In 1903 the Cardinal of Cologne sent some of the relics back to Milan as a gift to the Cardinal of the city.
The Star: – St. Chrysostom in his commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew gives this story regarding the coming of the Magi. Certain men who probed the hidden secrets chose twelve from among their members and if one of them died, his son or a close relative would take his place. Year after year the chosen twelve went up to the top of the Mountain of Victory once a month and stayed there three days, bathed and prayed to God to show them the star that prophet Balaam had foretold. On the day of Christ’s birth they were on the mountain, a star came to them above the mountain; it had the shape of the most beautiful child over whose head a cross gleamed. The child addressed them saying “go to the land of Judah as fast as you can and you will find there the New Born King whom you see”. And they set out immediately.
On the 13th day, they found Christ Jesus in Bethlehem. The star guided the Magi until they entered Jerusalem and then it disappeared.
There are two reasons for the disappearance of the star. The first, to make them look for Christ’s birth place, so that they would be assured of his birth, both by the appearance of the star and by the predictions of the Prophets. So it happened..
The second, that signs are given to the gentiles (non – Jews) an prophecy to the Jews. Therefore the sign of the star was given to the Magi when they were still far away from the Jews; and when they entered the Jewish land, the star disappeared and they had to learn about the Messiah from the Hebrew scriptures.
The gifts: – It was traditional among the ancients not to go empty-handed before a King or a God. As St. Bernard says, the magi offered gold to Jesus as tribute a sign of royalty to the High Priest who would offer incense and prayers to God. Myrrh symbolized Jesus’ death. He would die on the cross for the sins of his people and would be embalmed with myrrh. In his death on the cross we gain life.
St. Jerome writes, “Look up in the cradle of Christ and see Heaven. You behold the infant crying in his crib, listen at the same time. Angles sing songs of praise. Herod pursues to kill Jesus but the Magi worship and adore him. He is immersed in water for his baptism but indeed, the Holy Spirit descends from Heaven in the form of a dove”. God became man to save us, manifesting His kindness and love in supreme way. Being kind and loving we too can change the world.
If you peer into the deep well, the first thing you notice is its depth, and that can be frightening. Most of us, after all, have a healthy fear of heights. No one wants to fall. But falling into this well—which spiritually we have to do in order to draw from it—is a form of humility.
This humility is what we see in the three wise kings, who were willing to leave the splendor and riches of their kingdoms and enter a grotto where animals lived, in order to prostrate themselves before a child born of a peasant girl.
Picture this: these three wise kings fall to the ground in adoration before the newborn Jesus in a stable, where the hay of the animals was likely mixed with the waste of animals. Would you be humble enough to kneel in that hay? These three wise kings show us what it means to give up what we think is important in our little kingdoms in order to live from that deeper well.
Look at these three wise kings. Look at their sacrifices. There are at least two sacrifices that each king makes. The first sacrifice is their journey. They leave behind the lands where they rule, where they are in control, in order to bow down before the Ruler of Heaven and Earth: in order to follow Him. The second sacrifice is what they take from their treasuries, and place before the new-born King. But these gifts are given as a response to a greater Gift. From Jesus, from the Gift of God the Father, the wise man knows that the whole world, and every land, and every person in every land, will receive an infinite blessing. The gifts of the wise men are only responses to God’s great goodness.
So the first thing we have to do is to be alert, attentive. And the second is a willingness to take action. The Wise Men could have noted the appearance of the star in their charts, and done nothing more. They could have indicated that this phenomenon probably heralded something very special, and then gone back to their normal lives. Putting their tasks on hold, they put a commitment to their conviction. They put feet to their faith and commenced a journey.
When God presents us with a new opportunity, are we willing to get up and begin a journey of faith?
The story of the Wise Men helps us to se that there is something special, something remarkable that awaits us at the end of the journey.