Year C. Feast of the Epiphany, St. Augustine’s Limerick
When we look at the figures of the crib today, we notice a big difference between the characters we’ve been looking at for the past two weeks – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds – and those in focus today: the three Wise men or Kings that are prominent today in the cribs scene. They look different. They are dressed in a different way, normally much more sumptuously than the poor shepherds, they have turbans or crowns on their head; they look well off; and they are bringing elegant gifts with them.
The point is that while the shepherds represented the local world of Bethlehem and the simple of heart, the three Wise Kings represent the larger world; they are people from different countries; they are probably well educated and wealthy, they have their own history and background that was very different to the shepherds. And yet, for all that they have the three Wise me felt a restlessness. They were looking for something more in life. And when they saw the star in the East they set out to follow it.
Here's the point. They set out on a journey to look for and find Truth. We can imagine that took some effort but they knew they had to do it. Compare that with the scribes and experts advising King Herod. They could tell where Jesus, Truth, was to be found. It was to be in Bethlehem. Now Bethlehem isn’t far from Jerusalem. It’s literally just down the road, maybe 10 kilometres, from here to Patrickswell. But they didn’t get up and journey with the Wise Men. They couldn’t be bothered.
But the three Wise Men followed the star and found what they were looking for. They are a sign to us that everyone has the possibility of finding the truth if they keeping follow the Star, that Light that shines in their conscience, “do this, don’t do that”, if they keep being humble and open to the Truth, if they persevere in wanting to find the real meaning of life. Everyone is made for the encounter with Jesus who is the Truth that enlightens everyone.
In the crib scene we see the Wise Kings, kneeling and offering their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They’ve arrived, their hearts find rest. They are generous. They offer gifts.
So today’s Mass reminds us to make sure we always keep looking out for the star and follow it. It makes us hope that everyone has the possibility of seeing that star.
Finally, perhaps like the three Kings, we can make gifts today. We normally give our gifts on Christmas day. In Italy and other countries, they give gifts today. But perhaps there are gifts we can offer spiritually today. Gold is considered the first of the metals, the most precious of metals. We can promise the child Jesus that we want to put God – and not ourselves, our own projects – in the first place in our lives. Frankincense reminds us of the incense we see rising sometimes at Masses. Incense can symbolise prayer. One of the psalms says prayer rises like incense. We can make the gift of promising to pray, to burn a little incense, our time, offering time for prayer in our lives. And the third gift the Kings brought was myrrh. This was a costly anointment. It would be used for the body of Jesus. We know that when Jesus’ body was taken down from the Cross, it was anointed with oil. So we can promise the baby Jesus that we will anoint with the oil of love the suffering bodies of that we meet – the poor, the rejected, the forgotten ones.