Epiphany 2010

Today we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, the Feast by which we commemorate the fact that the Salvation of our God is for all the nations.  Throughout the Old Testament, we hear of how God spoke to His Chosen People, the Jews, through the Prophets.  In the fullness of time, God sent His own Son, born of the Virgin Mary, in order to fully reveal Himself, not just to His Chosen People, but to the whole world.  The three Magi were the first non-Jews to adore the Word-made-flesh, Emmanuel: God-with-us.

The Magi found the child with Mary His mother and they prostrated themselves before Him and adored Him.  They saw a baby with His mother and they fell down and worshipped.  God alone is worthy of our worship.  We do well to venerate the Blessed Mother and the Saints, but worship is something that is due to God alone.  The First of the Ten Commandments demands that we put no other god before the One, True God.  As the Magi beheld the child, they perceived one thing with their bodily eyes, and another thing with the eyes of their minds.  With their bodily eyes, they saw a newborn infant, but they knew that it was God that they adored.  It would have been pointless for the Magi to offer their adoration to a mere infant; an infant would have been unable to comprehend their worship; yet the Magi knew that there was more to this child than what they could see with their eyes.  They worshipped the baby before them knowing that He was God; God Who knows all things and comprehends all things and alone is deserving of all our love.

We are to adore God in the way that He is pleased to reveal Himself to us.  The Magi knew Him to be God, even though their senses told them that what they beheld was only a little child.  We, too, are to adore Our God as He is pleased to appear to us: we do not see a baby in a manger with His Mother, we see what looks like a piece of unleavened bread placed upon our altar by the priest.  Just as the Magi knew that what looked like an ordinary child was actually Almighty God, worthy of all adoration, so too, we know that what appears to be ordinary bread and wine on our altar is, after the consecration, Jesus Christ truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  We, like the Magi of old, are here to adore Him Who IS God among us.

After falling prostrate before Him, the Magi offered their gifts to Him.  We know that their gifts were full of significance: Gold signified the tribute they paid to Him as to their king; they offered incense to Him for they knew Him to be God; they offered myrrh, (which was used to embalm dead bodies in those days).  Myrrh was given to indicate the fact that God truly became a mortal man.  The gifts each had a symbolic or prophetic significance, but it is also important to note the fact that the Magi brought gifts with them when they came to worship.

God created everything that exists; God continually holds all creation together.  If God ceased to sustain something, it would cease to exist.  He created us and all that we have that is good comes from Him.  There isn’t anything that we can offer to Him that He hasn’t given to us; whatever we offer, we are only returning to Him what He has given to us in the first place.  Furthermore, God doesn’t need anything.  He is God; He created everything.  And yet, we learn from the three kings that it is important to offer a gift to God as we worship Him.

What, then, are we to offer to God?  We look to Jesus for the answer.  He is our example: He is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  What does Jesus give to us?  Jesus gave us the gift of Himself.  Jesus became a man for us; He was born for us in order that He may die to save us from sin and death.  He continues to give Himself to us in the gift of the Holy Eucharist at each and every Mass.  We are to imitate Christ: we should give to God the gift of ourselves.

How are we to make a gift of ourselves to God?  As the Magi brought the gift of gold, acknowledging that Christ was their King, so we too should acknowledge Christ as our King and put our fidelity to Him above all else.  As the Magi brought incense, so we can offer incense.  We offer incense here in Church, but each one of us can also offer the gift of incense.  In one of the Psalms, King David says that our prayers ascend as pleasing incense in the sight of Almighty God; and so we offer incense on the altar of our hearts whenever we pray to God from the heart.  Spending time in prayer is a gift that we can make to God in order to thank Him for all that He has done for us.

Finally, there is the gift of myrrh.  As I already mentioned, myrrh was used to embalm bodies in the ancient world: it was a gift that signified death.  Myrrh can be a reminder to us that if we are to offer ourselves to God, we need to die to self.  Jesus tells us that if we are to follow after Him, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow after Him.  By denying our sinful tendencies and rooting sin out of our lives, we make a more pleasing gift of ourselves to God.  Let us imitate the Magi and adore our God.  As we adore, let us bring our gift to Him: the gift of ourselves.  Let us strive to conform our lives and our hearts to that of Christ, and thereby make of ourselves an ever more pleasing gift to God.