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. Then 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.
“Epiphany” is a Greek word that means manifestation, and the Church celebrates Epiphany as the day on which Christ was manifested to the world in the persons of the magi from the east.
The magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold for a king, frankincense for a divine Savior, myrrh for one who would suffer for the sake of the whole world. Herod stands in contrast to the magi. When it was manifested to the magi that the Christ had been born, they sought Him out in order to worship Him. When it was manifested to the king that the Christ had been born, he sought Him out in order to kill Him.
So it is that every one of us must respond to Christ when He is manifested to each of us. How will I respond? Will I rejoice, humbly do Him homage, and give the gift of my self to Him? Or will I try to kill every Christ-like impulse within me, denying Him, and desiring only my own will, or foolishly hoping to protect my own position of power and privilege within me?
Today’s Gospel makes clear the choice that is put before each of us. How will we each respond to Christ when His grace is offered to us, or when His presence is born before us? He desires only to save us with His grace. But, we must respond to that grace, embrace His grace, and commit ourselves to being transformed according to His will.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.