The Epiphany of the Lord [ABC]
Isaiah 60:1-6 + Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6 + Matthew 2:1-12
January 6, 2013
“All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.” [Psalm 72:11]
When you were little, maybe you had an Aunt Wilhemina. That may not have been her name: she may have been Aunt Josephine, or Aunt Gertrude or Aunt Mary Catherine. If her name was different, her Christmas gifts to you were very much the same from year to year. When I was nine years old, my Aunt Wilhemina (not her real name) gave me for Christmas a pair of green and purple crocheted mittens. Upon opening this present, the last words on my mind were “thank you.” Fortunately for me, those words were the first thing on the minds of my parents, and every year during the days of Christmas, my brother and sisters and I were corralled to the dining room table to write our thank you notes.
There’s hardly a better way to spend the days of Christmas than to offer thank you’s. Of course, when we as Christians speak about the “days of Christmas”, we’re not talking about the days that stretch between Thanksgiving and December 25th. For Christians the days of Christmas only begin on December 25, and continue through the celebration of five mysteries of our Catholic Faith. All five of these mysteries help us grow in the virtues of gratitude and humility. All five mysteries help us to offer thank you’s more readily, and from the heart: not just for gifts in boxes and bows, but more importantly, for the gifts of human life and divine life.
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As we celebrate the Epiphany—as we look at the manger scene—we see three wise men arriving: men who were willing to sacrifice of themselves in order to find a newborn King. This is a sign of their wisdom: their willingness to sacrifice.
Their sacrifice reflects not only their own wisdom. Their sacrifice also reflects the wisdom of the One they were seeking. Or in other words, they were willing to sacrifice so greatly, because they believed in the greatness of the One they were searching for.
Each of the wise men was willing to leave the realm where he was king—where everyone bowed down before him—in order to find a king even greater than himself. Each of the wise men was willing to give up his riches in order to find an even greater treasure.
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I have never met anyone who does not want to be rich. Also, I’ve met many people who believe they’re rich, but who actually have become satisfied with riches that—in the end—are not going to do them any real good. This usually happens because people don’t recognize that inside the human soul, the desire for sacrifice is greater than the desire for the riches of the world.
Look at these three wise kings. Look at their sacrifices. There are at least two sacrifices that each king makes.
The first sacrifice is their journey. They leave behind the lands where they rule, where they are in control, in order to bow down before the Ruler of Heaven and Earth.
The second sacrifice is what they sacrifice from their treasuries, to place before the new-born King. But these gifts are given as a response to a greater Gift.
Jesus is the greater Gift. From the Gift of Him, the wise man knows that the whole world, and every land, and every person in every land, will receive an infinite blessing. The gifts of the wise men are only responses to God’s goodness. God’s goodness—that is, His love—is primary. Always. Our response is only and always secondary, both in sequence and in the measure of its goodness.
In God the Father giving us the Gift of His Son, the Father calls us to give a gift in response. But we might understandably worry, asking, “What can measure up to God’s gift? God’s gift is infinite. I cannot give an infinite gift.”
This is true. We can only give our “all” to God. In this way, at least, we can give as God gives. As the old saying goes, not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice. If we give as God gives—by giving Him our “all”—we tap into what is best in us: the desire to give, not to get; to take joy in showering others with good things, not to accumulate them for oneself; to take interest in the growth of one’s soul, not to watch the growth of one’s accounts with interest.
The growth of your soul is the growth of its capacity to give to others in sacrifice. The desire for this growth is the measure of divine love in your life.