The Feast of the Epiphany
In this age of dislocation, when people around the globe are on the move, fleeing violence, crushing poverty and despair, Matthew’s account of the Epiphany presents us with another tale of a journey- a journey of faith and hope. Scripture tells us little about the travelers, these Magi from the East, who set out bearing gifts for a newborn king, based on their knowledge of prophecy and portents in the sky.
Martin Luther, among others, recognized the parallels between the Magi and the Queen of Sheba, who also came to Israel bearing gifts when she heard stories of the legendary wisdom of King Solomon. The magi had a higher aim than the queen; they did not come to learn from a human king but to pay homage to a divine one. The connection is reiterated in Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus declares, “something greater than Solomon is here.” (12:42)
The Feast of Epiphany, this journey of the Magi, reminds us that the Spirit of God, who was breathed out over the waters at creation, continues to move among us to love, call and enlighten all who are open to God’s presence. This Spirit moved the Queen of Sheba and the Magi to give away their material possessions as they searched for something more real, more profound. God’s Spirit is not confined to any individual, any people, any church building, no matter how magnificent. Notice, it is not King Herod, the scribes or the temple priests of Israel who recognize or worship the newborn king, but outsiders, foreigners. If we shut our doors and our hearts to people of difference, like Herod or the infamous innkeepers of Bethlehem did, we might miss a chance to welcome bearers of God’s Spirit and God’s Word.
We encounter a better role model in Mary of Nazareth, who welcomed these unfamiliar guests and their unusual gifts rather than turn them away. It is easy to imagine this humble woman “reflecting on” and “treasuring” this visit, as she did the night she received her first unexpected visitors, a band of impoverished shepherds from the hillsides near Bethlehem singing God’s praises and speaking of angels (Luke 2:19).
Reflection by Ruth Cunnings, Candidate in the Society of the Sacred Heart
Photo by Michelle Finley, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Marine City, MI