So as to be more available to the graces of these readings, may we use our memories or imaginations to picture a trio of wandering wisdom-seekers stopping near a lowly barn. Their camels are ladened with scrolls, but no maps. They look toward the barn and then at each other with weather-wearied faces.
They had stopped at the palace in Jerusalem for directions and have been guided to a place in the “too little” village of Bethlehem. Should they just go in empty-handed? For all their wisdom, they seem shy and uncertain. This uncertainty will be the beginning of their new wisdom.
We are invited to pray on this Day of Revelation to be women and men of “manifestation” ourselves. It is not so much what gifts do we have to present to Jesus, but what gifts has God given us to reveal some particular feature of God’s personality.
We pray in the Third Cannon of the Eucharist that Jesus might make us, “an ever lasting gift” to God, isn’t that thrilling? We are the receivers and yet Christ has come to make us gifts offered back to the Giver. What of God do we reveal? We can pray with the same kind of mission-sense with which the Magi returned or at least went off. Jesus does not stay a child nor in Bethlehem or Nazareth. To accept our gifthood is to accept our being-givenhood and that will take much grace and time.
Israel had a long history of being intimate and special through the covenants made by God. They were not exactly secrets, but the “One God” was sharing with this one nation, information, or revelation of Who this “One God” was. Their history was a continuous intensification of their own image and the image of God for them. They were promised a Messiah and in the past weeks, we have heard of the miracles and fruitfulness which would accompany His arrival.
What we hear into day’s First Reading is a prophecy which foretells that this Messiah, this kind of secret, is going to be shared beyond the borders of Israel. The nation will still be special because people from the sea to the desert will come to visit the glory of God manifested in Jerusalem and Israel. The riches of other lands will come in recognition of the presence of a new brilliance which has shined upon this little place or spot of the earth. This, along with other prophecies, moves the secret more outward making the whole world bright and enlightened by the Light of this new revelation. God claims all people as special and as belonging to this "One God".
The Gospel is unique to Matthew who presents Jesus as both the One Who is to come and the One who has come for all. The Magi represents the “beyond” or distant lands and peoples to whom the Christ will offer His universal wisdom.
These “Wise Men” also represent the former ways of thinking, wondering, and philosophizing. They come in a sign of surrender to this new “epiphany” or display of this “One God” Who is for all and is now known as the God Who does the seeking and the finding. The Magi are the figures of the world who did the seeking for and the finding of God. The Light is initiated by God and this Light is meant for the whole world.
The gifts which the Magi present represent what is valuable to these seekers who leave them at the “house” and leave by “another way.” They have not so much found as they have been found and leave that place to begin the spreading the news of the Finder they found. This is all a grand ending and beginning. The Magi-story is the revelation that mere human wisdom searches for more than it can understand and so the Wanderers who have come from afar in distance and time, arrive, not at an idea or principle, but at the mystery of a Person. They are we as well.
We would like to think of God, arrive at our own logical, reasonable concept of God. We would love to say that we have found God. If we determine Who and What God is, then we would seem to control God. God would have to act accordingly. In prostrating themselves, the Magi admit their former human arrogance and surrender to the truth that until then, they had not been satisfied with their personal ponderings.
The Epiphany is a grand revelation that God will not be found to satisfy human thinking, but encourages us to live with the dissatisfactions of our hearts. Jesus has come among us and within us to accompany our spirits and not merely slake the thirsts of thought. We are invited to lay down our intellects, as precious gold, which they are. We, like the Magi, pick up our lives which have been met, found and sent off, the better for the finding.
It can be assumed that the Magi went back by “another way” of relating
with life. Their hearts and spirits are comforted and their minds
still turning these things over in wonder, not a bad way to journey.
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