PICTURE THE MAGI AS REACHING A SPECIAL DISCOVERY AND JOY AS THEY COME AND SEE THE INFANT LORD JESUS IN THE MANGER. HOPE THAT YOU AND I CAN HAVE THE SAME EXPERIENCE IN OUR OWN WAY, AND IN A DEEPER REALIZATION THAT OUR PAST CHRISTMASES.
I can start by saying that it is so nice to reach a discovery and a completion of a special task, whether in finding something, inventing something, completing something, solving something.
For the Wise Men, they had the fulfillment of their dreams and hopes—in finding the One whom they searched for. Their voyages were long and arduous, but determined, and now completed in their coming to Bethlehem, as led by that Star, and by their faith, and by oracles and prophecies, and testimony of the Jews in Diaspora (dispersion throughout the world at that time). The meaning of life was solved in meeting Jesus. The answer to all the problems and riddles of life came via Jesus. The outreach of God to the earth was discovered. God can invented a way to reach us, even in a big surprising and humble means, yet here HE was before them.
In speaking of solutions and fulfillment and satisfaction of a task completed, I remember getting a Rubik’s cube one Christmas. What a trial it first was to get the cube to have one color on all its sides. I might say, of that Christmas present, the only good thing about working on a Rubik’s cube was in finally solving it! Then, I was happy with myself, but then I wanted it to stay in its solved position from thence after! I did not want to upset it. Ultimately, I found out there is a 20 move solution and algorithm to put it quickly back together. But really. I just wanted to accomplish its solution once I got it. It took quite a bit of time and effort.
There is a satisfaction in working on any puzzle, too, as in any new puzzle too, at least for people with the patience and interest for it—but it’s all about getting the puzzle finished. You trust you have all the pieces inside. Perhaps puzzles remind us, that, in a way, Life, too, is a problem to be solved. Though some people wonder: what is its solution? What does it look like? What if you get a puzzle with no picture of the solution? Is it possible to solve? Jesus, is the Solution, the Picture, and the work of God by Incarnation of what Life is all about, and how it should look.
Life has a lesson in it all—that we are a people seeking a fulfillment to our lives. There is something, someone, out there for us. There is some destiny or point to our lives we wish to reach. One needs a clear meaning, a goal, a hope that things will come together in the end. Christians know that it is Jesus for all the questions and hopes and dreams. Jesus is the Answer.
I think that a Bible promise has convinced me, as an adult, that I can trust God on this. “All things work out for the good for those who love the Lord, and who are called according to His purposes. Romans 8:28-29. As I “get” that verse now, I compare it to what the Magi got when they saw God in the flesh. God is come to work things out for us. He has come a long way—even more than the Wise Men to Bethlehem—and God says that He’ll meet us in Bethlehem. We come to Him, and He comes to us.
I see the Magi as seekers for an ultimate fulfillment in their lives, and they follow an epiphany, or eureka style discovery. Scientists call their discoveries sometimes as “Eureka moments.” These Magi followed some sciences along with faith to get to Jesus. They went all in by their search for fulfillment, and it became fulfilled in a Person to see. Those who labor to find and discover may have their hopes fulfilled. Wise men still seek Him. Seek and you shall find, knock on that door and it gets opened.
I wonder about that international pilgrimage of Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar—those names of the heroes of Epiphany time. Each seem to have set out from different starting points, but then merge in their common quest and revelation. Perhaps like us, too. We come from many places on the globe, but are here together at Epiphany Mass. Yesterday (today),I had a marriage anniversary blessing of people from India, then a wedding of Cameroon Americans, and then a Baptism of Caucasians with some ancestry back to Northern Europe. Proof in the pudding that we come from afar, too. At least in our roots of people now in the USA. Even from the far East is a concelebrant priest today with me, Fr. Peter Bui, whose home is in Vietnam.
Point is—God has brought us here for the deeper discovery in Christmas 2018/19 that Jesus is the Answer for the world today, above Him there’s no other, Jesus is the Way.
Today is the Twelve Day, the day to commemorate the coming of the Gentiles to Christmas. In the 25th and the Lord’s Nativity, originally, it was a Jewish audience only to the Birth of their Messiah. With the arrival of Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, who are prophesied in Psalm 72 and other Bible places—here comes the world to the Birth of Jesus, Who is Light to the Gentiles, Light to the world.
This story is the start of Matthew of the world coming to the manger, and then Christ going forth outside of Israel, for a sojourn to Africa—is matched by the end of his Gospel, when He has Jesus ascending the mount and telling His disciples, “Go now into the whole world, and tell the Good News to them.”
That is the point of Christmas and Epiphany Feasts. We tell the world that God is come in Jesus.
We celebrate it big time, and not just as a past event, but as an ongoing one of God with us. Emmanuel.
Before I bow out in the homily, I want to share a few words of how this journey of seeing the Lord is not such an easy one, and even sometimes like a Rubik’s cube puzzle. We get tested in our faith, and will we prevail in seeing our Lord of The Glory?
The Magi are depicted in popular culture as travelers who come to Bethlehem as men clean, in colorful finery, sitting atop camels, and bearing gifts all nicely wrapped and adorned—and looking like well-off guys . They really don’t look so much as tired, tried men finishing a grueling journey. Not in most Nativity sets or church statues. But they were likely not so rested or easy-does-it men, and nor dare we say are most of us. We have had a tested journey so far, but we come determined to see Jesus.
The Magi make it to Christmas just before it shuts down and moves to Egypt. The Magi probably didn’t arrive on the first Christmas morning, and it is likely that by the time they got to Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph and the Baby had moved out of the stable and settled in the town. It was weeks, months, before they came—and Jesus had been taken to the Temple in Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph, with hardly a notice. Now, later on, as the Magi get there by the star, they come to Jerusalem with questions to the Jewish authorities of the whereabouts of the “new born King of the Jews.” The dead in faith leaders they met, under King Herod, don’t have a clue of it, and have to go find someone to point out the Scripture prophecy of Bethlehem to be the Messianic starting place. This sets off the madness and persecution that will come soon later from Herod and his troops. Yet the Magi do get led to Bethlehem, with the advice received, and by the Star again. They see and believe.
It’s a verse like Jesus says to disciples later on, in ministry. Come and see. Or that description that the apostle John gives of his coming to Jesus empty tomb: He saw and believed. But it had been a lot of things going on before the believing and fulfillment. So too with us today.
Read T.S. Elliot’s poem, ‘The Journey of the Magi’, and hear the the narrator, who is an old man, dictating his recollections of the journey that the men undertook. “Leaving their homes, ‘the summer palaces on slopes, the terraces/ and the silken girls bringing sherbets’/, they went/ through hostile cities and unfriendly towns and dirty villages/. In the end / they resorted to travelling at night, sleeping in snatches.
As you get to the last part of the poem, the Magi get to see the One Whom they sought. It says they were satisfied. But it also says how they were mystified. What did they see in the Christ. His birth. Or a death, as in to the old world, which would be reborn in Jesus?! Or in their peace about death, so to be able to die in peace, knowing a Savior had come.
Perhaps the latter is right in line with what Simeon said when He saw the Babe Jesus to bless Him at the Temple. Praying: Now, Lord, your servant can go die in peace, for Your Word has been fulfilled, the Glory of people Israel, and the Light of the Gentiles is come. There are some with Jewish blood in you to welcome the Glory of people Israel. I know a young priest of our Archdiocese, a Bowie vocation, and I knew his mother before her marriage to his dad, and she was a Jewish woman of faith. I know of her faith conversion, and she knows Jesus of Christmas as the Glory of people Israel, and that she is now a completed Jew. Joni married a Gentile, so Fr. Chris’ dad Bob is a Gentile who knows Jesus (like most of us) as the Light of the Gentiles. We have been entered into covenant with God in Christ Jesus, so that “Epiphany” or discovery or Aha moment is our Joy today in this feast. Merry Christmas, Happy Epiphany—on this 12th day—drum your drums of joy. ###
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.