The solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Freeman) - January 2, 2016 - 9:00am

This is our first gospel article for the Year 2016 and today’s gospel story is about the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ. Epiphany is defined as “A sudden and profound understanding of something… like when a person is seeking something and finds what he was looking for. However for this particular epiphany, it was when the Magi or the Three Wise Men found the baby Jesus lying on a manger inside a cave in Bethlehem.

Please take note that the Magi were considered as Gentiles…. They were not Jews, yet after the shepherds found the Baby Jesus as told to them by the angel, it was the Magi that found the baby Jesus and they worshiped him. Today’s Sunday gospel comes from Matthew 2:1-12.

“1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. 3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, :In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, Land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

9 After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.

Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. “

***

When I was a little boy, my mother would always celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings or Magi or the Three Wise men and put gifts in our bed and then she would tell me that those presents came from the Three Kings. Later on we adopted their names from the Armenian tradition as Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior. They were known to come from Iraq, Mesopotamia and Persia. Studies have shown that these wise men were also astrologers who followed a particular star (later it was named the Star of David) and it probably took them some time before they reached Jerusalem.

The Three Kings travelled with a huge entourage of three different caravans, which is why when they passed Jerusalem, people immediately noticed them. A big caravan arriving from the East attracts attention inside Jerusalem, and when they asked the Jews where to find the new born King of the Jews, everyone was surprised for they have not heard of this event. In any royalty, a new born babe coming from royalty is always a joyous occasion, but the Three Wise Men did not get answers from the ordinary people living in Jerusalem.

But this was brought into King Herod’s attention and he then consulted the chief priests and the scribes to ask them where the Messiah would be born and he was told that the prophets said he would be born in Bethlehem. Then as the story goes, King Herod secretly met with the Magi and told them that if they find the newborn babe, to inform him so he too could pay homage to this newborn King of the Jews. 

When the Three Wise men saw the baby Jesus, they prostrated themselves before him and presented their gifts to the baby Jesus. They are gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. God represents the kingship of the baby Jesus, while Frankincense is taken from a tree sap and used to burn incense in the altar like what our priests still do today. Myrrh is an ointment used for embalming the dead. These gifts by the Three Kings is somewhat prophetic for they must have learned that the Messiah who was to be the King of the Jews was also a high priest and he was born to die for our sins.

Somehow the order of visitors to the baby Jesus started with the shepherds who were most probably Jews as they lived in Judea, and then this was followed by the Magi who represented the gentiles. If you recall, the Messiah was sent to the world to save the first-born believers of God, the Jews. But the Jews rejected the Messiah, and thus the salvific plan of God shifted to the Gentiles, who embraced Christianity. If you didn’t know, we Filipinos belong to the Gentiles.

***

For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com

ACIRC BORN JESUS JEWS KING KING HEROD KING OF THE JEWS MAGI QUOT THREE THREE KINGS
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