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” (Mt 2:1-2).
At some point as they approached Jerusalem, the magi lost track of the star, did it become cloudy, did they close in on the city during the day, did they believe it was proper protocol that in entering the city they ought to check in with Herod first before proceeding? We don’t know. But somehow these magi were led by a star with the belief that they were to pay homage to the king of the Jews in a distant land.
What drew them from their home miles away? What inspired them to leave the comfort of their everyday routine? This was no easy journey, and it was a risky adventure. Yet something or someone inspired them, invited them to come. They said yes. And though they were misdirected for a time, when they left the audience of King Herod and resumed their pilgrimage, they again saw the star, and were “overjoyed” (Mt 2:10).
That joy must have multiplied when they prostrated themselves before the baby king. The one who they risked and sought for they had now found, the goal was accomplished. In reality, their journey had only begun. Their lives would be forever changed and they would go back a different way than they came. The magi would not return to Herod, nor would they return to their home quite the same. They would not return from this journey and just go back to business as usual. The magi carried within them their encounter with the Christ; the light that drew them, they now carried inside of them.
They would proclaim him in the East. The magi did what they were called to do, to encounter the Christ and bring his light to the world. They and those who followed the same invitation are why we are still able to hear this same message today.
Today is the feast of Epiphany, and it is on this day that we celebrate that the King of the Jews, Jesus the Christ, has made his salvation known to the whole world. The manifestation of God’s glory came to the Jews first and then to all the Nations. The Son of God has become one of us and one with us so that all people are given the offer to be saved. We too are invited.
May we, like the magi, put the light of Christ first in our life. Let us seek each day to encounter him and his plan for our life. Distractions and temptations, the many appealing and apparent goods will reach out to grasp us and lead us astray, yet to put Jesus first will help all other priorities fall into their proper order and place.
Bishop Robert Barron in his new book, To Light a Fire on Earth, writes about becoming part of God’s “Theodrama”, using the Swiss theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar’s term. God is directing all of creation, all of the cosmos, and we too have a part to play. “The key” Bishop Barron writes, “is to find the role that God has designed for us, even if it looks like a bit part… When, through faith, we see every moment and every creature as an ingredient in the divine plan, when we know that there is a gracious providence at work in the universe, we live in joyful surrender and with a great sense of wonder.”
This is what the Epiphany is about. Jesus manifesting his light to us so that we can finally come to see that we are not the center of the universe, but he is. “When we decenter the ego, and live in exciting and unpredictable relationship to God, we realize very clearly that our lives are not about us. And that’s a liberating discovery” (Barron 2017, 164-165).
May we follow the lead of the magi, and prostrate ourselves before our Lord and Savior. Let us lay face down and surrender to him our all and when ready, rise again forever changed, ready to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord!