Epiphany of the Lord, Year C-2010
- You made them a kingdom and priests for our God (Rev. 5:10)
The closer Christmas got, the more frequently I heard the International Star Registry’s radio advertisement. Its pitch to the consuming public was that it would name a star after a consumer’s loved one and would issue a certificate attesting to it. The consumer could then give the certificate as a “gift of a lifetime.” Though it has been suggested that this is all a scam, ISR has an A- rating from Better Business Bureau. I bet ISR gets a lot of business; stardom dazzles and, hence, can be blinding.
Blinded by his own stardom, King Herod could not help being “greatly troubled” by the news of the recent birth of the king of the Jews. His sycophants would naturally be disturbed too, but so would the ordinary citizens. After all, who would know what a disturbed King Herod would do? The citizenry would probably prefer that their king be spared of every threat to his power. Given the powers that be, notorious for being astute, violent and cruel, all of Jerusalem would rather not welcome the newborn king of the Jews, albeit he would be one of their own, more genuinely one of them than this Idumean, propped up in his throne by the patronage and power of the hated Roman occupiers.
But the Gentiles welcomed Jesus. Not blinded but rather guided by the star of the newborn king of the Jews, the magi from the east sought him until they found him. And seeing the child with his mother, “they prostrated themselves and did him homage” and “offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Doing so, the magi embodied not only the gift-giving of the kings of Tarshish, Arabia, and Seba (Ps. 72:10, 15), but also the bearing of gold and frankincense by those from Sheba, mentioned in the first reading. Thus, too, were these Gentiles given “the power to become children of God …, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God” (Jn. 1:13).
The magi surely stand for all Gentiles who accept the one who was rejected by his own people, and who believe in his name and are now revealed, according to the second reading, as “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Yes, this is all a matter of divine revelation. When the Messiah appears, his star rises, yet it is discerned only by those to whom God reveals it (see Num. 24:17; see also “Star” in John L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible [Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1965] 846).
And God chooses the poor—those with intelligence and bear expensive gifts, like the magi, and those, like the shepherds, who can only offer, to be treasured and pondered, their posture and words of awe, wonder and gratitude. What they have in common is that, before the brilliance of the Lord’s throne, they ask no luster of their own (see one of the midday hymns for the Daytime Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours). Unlike Herod, they have yet to find anything—be it a royal title or stellar recognition—that is superior or equal to Jesus’ kingship and stardom. Like St. Ignatius of Loyola, they acknowledge that all they have and cherish have been given by the Lord, and hence they surrender it all to be guided by his will; convinced that the Lord’s grace and love are wealth enough for them, they ask, “Give us these, Lord, and we ask for nothing more.”
Indeed, the Lord’s grace and love are everything. One who has them shares as well in Jesus’ kingship and priesthood, and is consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (see Heb. 10:10). Since Jesus is the fullness of revelation and “has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises” (see Heb. 1:1-2; 8:6; 9:15; 12:24), one who partakes of Jesus will need no other epiphany, no other king, priest or star.