“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.”  Words from our Gospel today from the 2nd chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew – sisters and brothers may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy

 

Merry Christmas everyone!  I don’t think we should tire of saying that to each other, especially since the celebration of Christmas entails an entire season, and we sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to remind ourselves of this fact.  Actually, today’s feast day of Epiphany is the highlight of the celebration of Christmas for our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Churches, and following the lead of the magi, it is when they would traditionally exchange gifts with one another. 

 

In that spirit of Christmas giving, I remember watching a funny video with our high school students about shopping for Jesus.  It featured Mary and Joseph wandering around and shopping at Walmart on Black Friday looking for things they thought the boy Jesus would like.  They picked up the video game, Halo and put it down realizing that was not the kind of halo they were thinking of.  They picked up a pop-up gazebo, but Joseph looked at the instructions and saw that it only fit 10 people inside: “I think Jesus is going to have 12 people following him wherever he will go.”  Mary picked up a pool inflatable and they thought that could work for floating down the Jordan River in a lazy river ride.  Mary and Joseph finally went about randomly asking people in the store, what would you get for a young child?  What would you get Jesus for Christmas?  A thought-provoking question, especially when we think the person we want to give something to has everything…  You know, we got gifts for Mom and Dad, children, siblings, cousins, family and friends, coworkers – we exchanged gifts with everyone else, but did we get Jesus anything?  Our world frequently forgets about God, and often Christ is removed from Christmas, and many times there is no room in the inn…

 

Perhaps, the magi of our Gospel today can lead us in our gift giving and help us to see what we should give to Jesus as we draw near to the end of our celebration of the Christmas season.  Here’s a little summary on the gifts of the magi to Jesus and what they symbolize and what they should mean for us:

 

  • From ancient times, gold has been associated with rarity and royalty. Because of its endurance, gold also became associated with immortality.  In the time of Jesus gold was an essential gift for a king or deity.  The magi’s gift of gold symbolizes their acknowledgement of Jesus as a king whose kingdom cannot be destroyed by earthly powers.  Pope St. Gregory the Great once said that just as gold has a luminous quality and shines in grandeur so should we live so as to reflect the splendor of Christ by following in Christ’s wisdom and teachings.  Let our own lives and our endeavors be like gold that augments the wealth and glory of God’s Kingdom.  Our discipleship would be a fitting gift for a king. 
  • Frankincense, also known as olibanum, was also considered precious. The plant-derived, resin-like substance was used for medicinal purposes and in incense.  Frankincense was not native to Israel and was expensive to import, but was a logical gift to be borne by a visitor from the east to Jerusalem where it was used in liturgy and rituals by the temple elders.  In presenting frankincense to Jesus, the magi recognized Jesus’s role as high priest of us all before God.  And just as frankincense signifies the priesthood of Christ, so let us offer prayer and adoration that we are to give him.  Every Mass, the priest invites us to: lift up our hearts, and we respond: we lift them up to the Lord, let us give thanks to the Lord our God for indeed it is right and just that we that we give him the gift of praise for all the blessings he has given us.
  • [And finally,] Myrrh was, in Jesus’s time, more valuable than gold. It is obtained from trees which grow in southern Arabia and other parts of the African continent.  Its ancient use was as an analgesic and an embalming element.  Myrrh symbolized pain, death and the afterlife.  As a gift of the magi, it foretold of Jesus’s suffering and death.  Jesus was offered myrrh with wine to soothe him during the crucifixion.  Myrrh also was used to anoint his body after his death.  As the myrrh was utilized in Jesus’ suffering and death, let us offer our daily sufferings to the Lord, and make those little self-sacrifices in the context of our daily lives – this would be a great consolation and gift of love that we could offer for one another.[1]

 

Showing up a little later on the manger scene, the arrival of the magi is part of our Christmas celebrations all the same.  They offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh – fitting gifts of praise and adoration for Jesus in all that he is to us who is Christ and Lord.  So, what are we as his disciples going to give to Jesus today?  It’s not too late to offer our gold frankincense and myrrh, it’s not too late to give the gift of discipleship, the gift praise, the gift of love.  Indeed, let us give completely of ourselves to Jesus Christ this Christmas Day. 

 

[1] Nash, Tom. “Why Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh as Gifts” June 15, 2017. Accessed January 03, 2019. https://www.catholic.com/qa/why-gold-frankincense-and-myrrh-as-gifts; Leddy, Laura. “Catholic Meaning of the Magi Gifts” accessed January 03, 2019. https://classroom.synonym.com/catholic-meaning-magi-gifts-7815.html.

The Epiphany of the Lord

Reading I

Is 60:1-6

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.

Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13.

  1. (cf. 11) Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
    O God, with your judgment endow the king,
    and with your justice, the king’s son;
    He shall govern your people with justice
    and your afflicted ones with judgment.
    R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
    Justice shall flower in his days,
    and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
    May he rule from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
    R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
    The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;
    the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.
    All kings shall pay him homage,
    all nations shall serve him.
    R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
    For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
    and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
    He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
    the lives of the poor he shall save.
    R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

Reading II

Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Alleluia

Mt 2:2

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    We saw his star at its rising
    and have come to do him homage.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

Mt 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
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.

Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
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.”
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.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
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.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.