Just like the Magi from the East, offer baby Jesus these gifts on his epiphany
The Epiphany is one of the most charming festivities in Christmas time and even in the whole liturgical calendar. This is because of its beautiful symbol and the wonderful episode in the Gospel about the adoration of the Magi. (see Matthew 2:1-12)
During the Epiphany, Baby Jesus is adored for the second time, after the shepherds did so on behalf of the Jews. God had chosen one nation to prepare it through many centuries, so it could become the cradle of the Messiah. The shepherds from Israel had the great privilege of being the first to hear the news of the birth of the Messiah. Surely, they were the first to rush and adore him. Israel was not represented by the high priests or the religious authorities, but by the humble shepherds, who received the message from the angels and who adored baby Jesus before anyone else.
The Son of God did not become a man to save the people of Israel alone, but the whole world. In consequence, the whole world answered to his birth as well and went to the place of birth of Baby Jesus to adore him. This Gentile world is represented by the Magi who came from the east, “the land where the sun raises,” says the Greek text of the Gospel.
We don’t know how many Magi were there —the Gospel doesn’t tell. Throughout the centuries, tradition made them three: Melchior from Persia, Gaspar from India, and Balthazar from Babylon. Even a beast to ride on was given to each: a horse for Melchior, a camel for Gaspar and an elephant for Balthazar. These three were a symbol of the Gentile (non-Jewish) world. The entire world coming through the Magi to adore Baby Jesus and to acknowledge him as Savior.
The Magi offered baby Jesus three special gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold, for this baby is a King. Frankincense to worship him, for he is God. And myrrh to remind him of his human condition that will perish one day. When Jesus dies and is buried, Nicodemus will bring 100 pounds of myrrh to anoint his body. (see John 19:39) In excessive amounts, just as recorded in the Gospel according to John, myrrh was used to anoint the kings at their burial.
At a personal level, how can we make all this meaningful? By offering Baby Jesus during the Epiphany our gold, our frankincense and our myrrh.
At the holy Mass, offer Baby Jesus your gold: the very best of yourself. Bring forth to the altar your achievements, your success, your promotions, your pay raises, the honorable deeds you have done, your stable matrimony, your loving family, your fidelity to the Ten Commandments — everything that makes you shine.
Offer him your frankincense as well: You must worship Baby Jesus, for he is God. And offer him all your prayers, all your needs, all your wishes, so your prayer may raise to heaven with the smoke of the burning frankincense.
And don’t forget to offer him also your myrrh: the sorrowful and bitter side of your life, all your afflictions, your preoccupations, whatever enslaves you, your vices, your defects, those aspects of your life that make you feel ashamed. Offer all the bitterness of your life to Baby Jesus, for he was born to redeem you from it.
I hope you behaved yourself last year and can find a present from the Magi next to your Nativity scene, on the morning of the Epiphany.
Be passionate about your faith!
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - January/February 2018