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Encountering Christ Today
The Epiphany of the Lord
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.
Opening Prayer: Lord, I kneel before you and see you wrapped in linens and laying in a manger. There is a dazzling star above my head. Allow me in these moments of prayer to enter into the experience of awe and wonder that must have overwhelmed the three kings.
- Downward Spiral: When the Magi inquired of Herod the Great, as he was known, about the “newborn king of the Jews,” Herod was “greatly troubled.” This was Herod’s opportunity to encounter Christ, and he rejected it because Jesus threatened his kingship. Instead, he sent the Magi to search for the infant, intending to have Jesus killed. Some time later, we know that Herod the Great’s son, Herod Antipas, had John the Baptist beheaded on a drunken impulse. By the time Pilate sent Christ to Herod Antipas for judgment, Scripture indicates that Herod Antipas had committed at least three capital sins: murder, gluttony, and adultery. History claims that both men were ambitious, cruel, and merciless leaders. Their power corrupted them and their sins blinded them to the presence of Christ in their life. Fortunately, we know that Jesus came to forgive sin, no matter how serious it is. We are blessed when we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which can halt a downward spiral of sin in its tracks.
- A Joyful Encounter: Unlike Herod, the Magi were seekers. They missed not a single opportunity to encounter Christ. They followed a mysterious star to Jerusalem, inquired of the city’s leader, and set out at once again to follow the star and find Jesus in Bethlehem. Their perseverance was rewarded! Imagine their delight as the star led them to the Holy Family. When they encountered Christ, they prostrated themselves and did him homage. An encounter with Christ always evokes humility and a desire to worship. May we celebrate this feast of Epiphany with the same disposition as did the Magi.
- Gifts Galore: An encounter with Christ is an experience of heaven. When we encounter him, we are overwhelmed by our littleness. Our hearts burst with gratitude. We feel peace. Like the Magi, when we encounter Christ, our first impulse is to “give back” to our redeemer. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What can we give to Christ in this moment? In this Christmas season? As a New Year’s resolution?
Conversing with Christ: Lord, the Magi set an excellent example for us in many ways. I want to follow in your footsteps as they followed the star to our birthplace. I want to shower you with precious gifts in thanksgiving for making yourself available to me through prayer and the sacraments. I want to spend eternity with you in heaven. Please show me any spiritual blindness I may have so that I may confess and receive your forgiveness.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will look for a moment to surrender my will to another quietly and humbly, as my gift to you.
For Further Reflection: Read about the symbolic meaning of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Written by Maribeth Harper.