Reflection on the Gospel– Feast of the Epiphany Year C (Matthew 2:1-12) -Veronica Lawson RSM

God’s presence is revealed to us in diverse ways: we can read the book of God’s vast creation; we can search out the meaning of our dreams; we can learn from our own and others’ experience; and we can listen to the voice of our sacred scriptures. Being attentive to God’s presence has nothing to do with naïve dependence on our own judgment or on the judgement of others. It has more to do with a way of being in the world that involves openness to the unexpected and a critical and careful personal and communal dialogue between our life experience and our faith tradition. A deep awareness of our place in the Earth community teaches us humility. It also teaches respect for the whole of creation and for the power of the more-than-human to lead us beyond ourselves. While this has always been true, the events of the past two years have brought home to most of us our utter dependence on a healthy environment and on right relationship within our planetary home.

Epiphany is the feast of the wise ones or astrologers “from the East” who are led beyond themselves and their immediate location by the rising of a star. They form their own preliminary hypothesis and travel west to search out the meaning of this sign. They learn from the official interpreters of the Jewish scriptures, the “scribes of the people”. They then follow the star that leads them to the new born child, the incarnate Wisdom of God. The gospel does not stipulate how many wise ones or magi come to pay homage to the child. There is no indication in the story as to whether they are men or women or both. The three precious earth derived gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh have traditionally been associated with three different characters, usually kings, of diverse nationality and colour, although there is no support for this in the text. These strangers are the first to recognise “God-with-us” in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and to pay him homage. They also come to recognise, in a dream, the duplicity of King Herod. They have the good sense not to accede to Herod’s request to “bring him word” of the newborn king. Warned once again in a dream, they return home “by another road”.

The story-teller Matthew leaves room in the tableau for the insertion of the wise ones who will emerge through the ages. There is an invitation for us to enter into Matthew’s drama, to be the wise ones, to join with people of diverse cultures, to engage in our own search for Wisdom, to honour the birth and the life of every child and to follow the “star” that leads to truth and lasting peace. There is also an invitation to be wary of self-serving rulers who find their positions threatened by the different sort of power that is based on vulnerability and openness to new life.

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