The feast of Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world.
For all of us, God’s love bursts forth like a light that pierces the darkness.
Let’s attend carefully to the Scripture readings for the day, confident that God will do something new in our lives through our prayerful listening. Like the Magi who meet Jesus at the end of the journey, we meet Jesus as we reflect on God’s word.
Read and Understand. Light a candle or sit in the presence of the manger scene approached by the three Magi bearing gifts.
When you are prepared, read Matthew 2:1-12 aloud, reading with your eyes and lips and listening with your ears and your heart. Hear these inspired words in a new way, guided by the light of God’s renewing Spirit.
The Magi are avid scholars of spiritual mysteries. Whether these seekers are Persian priests, Babylonian astronomers, Nabataean spice traders, or wise seekers from other places to the East, their significance lies in that they are Gentiles from distant nations. Later, tradition embellished the biblical account by giving names and royal titles to these Magi: Melchior, king of Persia; Gaspar, king of India; and Balthasar, king of Arabia. The wise men interpret the star as a divine sign pointing to the Messiah and seek to find him: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Matthew 2:2).
Matthew’s Gospel sets up a stark contrast between the dark fear of Herod and the adoring homage of the Magi. While Herod plots the death of the child, the strangers from the East kneel before him and offer him gifts worthy of a king. These Gentile Magi who come to worship Christ anticipate all the believers from all the nations who will be called to salvation through this King from the line of David. His origin in Bethlehem points to his destiny. Some will accept him and offer him worship; others will reject him and seek to put him to death. The disciples of Jesus will meet a similar reception when they proclaim the gospel after the resurrection. Some people will accept the saving good news; others will oppose it and violently persecute the community of faith. From his birth, Jesus is destined to be the suffering Messiah whose worldwide dominion will bring salvation to all the nations.
Meditate. Consider the new insights and transformed way of life you could experience from truly listening to these Scripture passages and taking them to heart. Perhaps you can assess where, on the scale from darkness to light or from gloomy to radiant your life in Christ is. What might help you to reflect his light more luminously?
Or consider the Magi. Do you know of three wise seekers to whom you can look for advice and guidance today? Ponder what gifts you might bring to honor Christ today. Imagine yourself as one of the Magi. What do you see? What do you hear? What emotions do you feel? How do you respond?
Pray. After allowing yourself to be disturbed and challenged by this Scripture text, respond to God with a prayer that arises from your own reflection. Begin with these words and allow them to spark your own words of prayer.
Lord of all the nations, you mark the path of my life with your shining light, and you guide me on my journey to you. Give me the desire to kneel before you and present to you the gifts of my life.
Contemplate. Choose a word, phrase, or image from the Scripture reading to be your focus. Then just rest quietly in God’s presence, recalling and repeating the word, phrase, or image when you get distracted.
Act. People with odd dress, different-colored skin, and unintelligible language often put us on guard. Yet Epiphany celebrates these strangers as friends, companions on the journey, and coheirs with us to God’s promises. Seek some ways this week to better appreciate the strangers among you and recognize their gifts.
Stephen Binz is a Scripture scholar, speaker, and author of many books and articles on the Bible. This excerpt is taken from his book, Conversing with God in Advent and Christmas: Praying the Sunday Mass Readings with Lectio Divina.