Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3,5-6; Matt 2:1-12
I read this story about high school students who were putting on a Christmas play which they themselves had written. In the afternoon before the play’s performance, the students suddenly realized that they had forgotten all about the three kings in the story. The director of the play hit upon the following solution: he would phone three people at random and ask them if they would stand in for the three kings. All they had to do was this: bring along some gift which was especially meaningful to them and then explain in their own words why they had chosen that gift.
The first of the three kings was a fifty-year-old father of five. He worked for the town council. He brought along a pair of crutches and explained: “Some years ago I was in a head-on collision on the highway. I spent many months in the hospital with broken bones. No one was sure that I would ever walk again. But I tried and tried and used these crutches for weeks. During that time my whole attitude changed: I became happy and grateful for every little daily success. I learned to take nothing for granted. I bring these crutches as a symbol of my personal thanks to God.”
The second of the three kings was really a queen, a mother of two children. She brought along a bundle of diapers and baby clothes. She explained: “I was very happy and successful as a graphic artist. Then I got married and the bottom fell out of my life. My husband did not want me to work anymore. All he wanted me to do was stay at home and take care of the house. Then along came the babies and they needed me. But after they grew up, I was again lost…. until I began to put my talents to work in creative art classes for children. I bring along this bundle of baby things to show that it was the little ones, the babies, who brought a new meaning into my life. I feel that by working and helping in their little world I am bettering the whole family of mankind.”
The third king was a young teenager. All he brought along was a blank piece of paper. He laid it before the Infant Jesus in the crib and explained: “I was not even sure whether I should come here or not… May hands are empty; I have nothing to give. In my heart I long for success and a meaning for my life. I am filled with doubts and questions and unrest. My future looks foggy and unclear to me. I lay this empty sheet of paper before you, Child in the crib and ask you to bring me an answer to some of my problems. I feel empty on the inside but my heart is open and receptive.”
Today we celebrate the feast of the magi or ‘epiphany.’ This feast is popularly called as the Feast of the Three Kings. But did you know there were originally six and not three Kings? It is because only three reached Bethlehem. The 4th went to the US now known as Burger King, and the 5th and 6th went to the Philippines namely: Chowking and Tapa King, joking aside.
Well, anyway, it is called “epiphany” because Jesus revealed Himself not only to the Jews, the chosen people, but also to pagan visitors. The word ‘Epiphany’ is from the Greek term “epiphanein” which means “manifestation.” In other words, Epiphany is first and foremost the Feast of God’s revelation of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, to the world. Jesus is Savior not only of Israelites, the chosen people, but also to everybody. And in this sense, I am sure that the Magi represent all the other peoples of the world.
As you listen to our gospel, which is a very nice story, taken from the gospel of St. Matthew (2:1-12), about how God guided the three wise men to the Baby Jesus by means of a special star. How nice it would be for each of us to have a star to follow in the right direction. Well, as Fr. Frank Mihalic stated it, in his book entitled A Thought for Today, said that all of us have stars to follow. But this time they are not moving across the heavens. Our stars today are right down here on earth with us.
Our stars are people and places and things that show us the way, that inspire us, that attract us.
Sometimes people are our stars. Nowadays we call famous singers or sports people or actors, stars. Young people make heroes out of these stars. They imitate their speech, their dress and their ideas. In the same way we follow the religious heroes we call saints. We take their names and we try to follow their examples. They are our stars that guide us to Jesus and God.
Sometimes a good example can be a star. It pulls us and draws us. A good idea can be a star. Perhaps we get it from something we hear or read. Sometimes sickness and pain can be a star: it makes us useless for awhile and gives us time to think.
The Bible is also a star. Even King Herod brought the three wise men into contact with the Bible. The Bible is an excellent guide for people looking for Jesus. But according to Fr. Foulon, in his homily book entitled, From Spring to Life, said that the Bible is not enough, for we need people who will explain it. Many people go around with the Bible today, but it is sad that so many use it not to lead us to the meaning of Jesus’ words, but to convince us of their own interpretation. Jesus did not give us the New Testament. It was the Christian community that accepted his word and transmitted part of it to us through the Bible. Without the Christian community, we would have no gospels today and we still need the church’s help to understand them.
But, of course, Jesus Christ is our guiding star to God. He is our way, our truth and our life.
Of course, there is also such thing as following the wrong star. We do that when we look down and not up. Perhaps we can explain that with a little example. On a clear night, we can see stars reflected in ponds of water. No matter how dirty the water is, we see the stars down there. Since it is usually easier to reach down than to reach up, many people reach down into muddy water for their stars and then they find out that those were no real stars down there. People who reach down and not up for their stars are people whose star in life is: money, sex, drink, power, popularity, personality, bad company or patronage association. They follow these and perhaps end up in a swamp where there are also reflections of stars – but not real stars.
Look upwards and not downwards for your stars. Then one day you will win and have stars in your eyes as we say of very surprised happy people
See Today’s Readings: Cycle C