The joyous Twelve Days of Christmas have been celebrated, and as we bring the Christmas Season to a close, we commemorate a special manifestation of our Lord, the Solemnity of Epiphany. Our Gospel today, tells us of magi coming from the east, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” We sometimes refer to these magi as “wise men” because of accounts of them being pagans from the East, astrologers, and interpreters of dreams, but our Gospel doesn’t tell us how many magi sought Jesus. We can only assume there were several of them, each accompanied by other family members and many servants, along with loads of supplies and provisions. Their journeys to Judea most likely took between 4 to 12 months, and were constantly met with the difficulties, trials, and threats of the wilderness. They knew the stars, however, and they followed a new star, one that was believed to reveal a new ruler of the people, a newborn king that would unite the human and divine by his death.
When Herod heard of their quest, he was deeply troubled. Nearly forty years earlier, Herod was chosen by the Roman Senate and given the title, “King of the Jews.” The Roman Senate sent Herod to Judea to maintain and monitor the emperor’s interests in the region, ruling over the Jews. Herod, a convert to Judaism, had financed and completed incredible construction projects, including the magnificent expansion of the Jewish Temple. Four walls, including the Wailing Wall, still remain in place from his construction efforts. Hearing of a “new” king would most certainly have meant that he was to be replaced, and this infuriated and enraged Herod.
As we know, Herod plotted to use the magi. After assembling his priests and advisors and getting information about where this king would be born, Herod sent the magi on their way with instructions to return to him with the identity and location of this newborn king so he himself could do homage. The magi, who were very attentive to their dreams, were warned not to return to Herod, and when he realized the magi had foiled his plan, Herod ordered the execution of all the infant first-born sons in the region.
We oftentimes believe and act like we are kings of our own lives. We live day-to-day as if we are autonomous and independent rulers, and would never give up our power and control. And sometimes, we destroy whatever we may see as a threat to our independence, authority, position, title, or wealth. The reality is that none of this belongs to us – all that we “have,” even our talents, gifts, motivations, and good desires, all come from God. We can be like the magi, make a life-changing journey, and present our most precious gifts to our true King, lay all of our treasures, even our very lives, at the feet of Jesus; or we can seek to destroy anything and everything for which we feel threatened, even that which is perfect, beautiful, good, and true.
Some questions to consider: Who sits on the throne of my heart? Is it Jesus? Is Jesus the ruler of my life? Is it he who drives me and motivates me in my relationships with others, in my efforts at work or school, and in my dealings with those less fortunate, the marginalized, or the poor? Am I allowing the fear of “losing” something, perhaps my position, power, or prestige, to keep from acknowledging and submitting to the true King?
Heavenly Father, allow me to imitate the “wise” magi. Give me the courage and humility I need to release myself from the pursuits common in this world and to put Jesus on the throne of my heart, to be ruler of my life. Take away my fears so that I live according to your will and for your glory. Amen.