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Follow the Star

Let us walk with the Magi to the manger to find Christ anew

By Jason Godin

Last Sunday, in most U.S. dioceses, was the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Your parish may have had a trio of children dressed that day as the Three Magi, who journeyed from the back toward the front of the church bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Words from Scripture guided them as they proceeded forward, one a time, with a single purpose – to pay homage to the Perfect Light lying in a manger under the star shining in the westward night sky.

As 2016 begins and the Year or Mercy continues, it may be worth returning to those words of Scripture – specifically the Gospel of Matthew, second chapter – animating the preceding scene. Verses 10 and 11 share in simple ways how the Epiphany moves us, like it did the Magi long ago, closer to Christ.

Matthew begins his account with three “wise” Persian astrologers asking King Herod about the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews” because they “saw his star at its rising” and “have come to do him homage” (2:2). It appears cause for celebration until it is clear that the question “greatly troubled” Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” (2:3). For the rising star served as single, signal confirmation for all assembled that the shepherd ruler from the land of Judah, long promised by the Old Testament prophet, had indeed been born (2:4-6).

“Go and search diligently for the child,” Herod slyly commanded the Magi as he sent them off to Bethlehem. “When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage” (2:7-8).

Many listeners of that mandate to the Magi know that Herod sought to kill and not to be kind to the Word made flesh. As a result, they simply stop there, saying it serves as timeless testimony to the old adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

But keep going. Go to the end with the three, stop with them beneath the shining star, and catch a closer look together:

“They were overjoyed at seeing the star …” (2:10)

The star ultimately isn’t simply a wonderful event in the heavens. The true star is a baby from heaven. God has entered our ordinary world, an extraordinary joy to the world!

“… and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.” (2:11)

Jesus isn’t alone. The throne of the newborn king is made of the humble, human arms of his mother. They’re the embrace of an immaculate woman who reigns to this day as the Queen of Heaven precisely because she was moved so deeply as to say “yes” to God.

“Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (2:11)

It is easy to dismiss what the Magi did next as just another display of worldly wealth. Not so. Don’t let the means – treasures to the senses to be sure – erode essential understanding of their ends. Each gift is given fully, in honor, praise and, ultimately, worship.

An epiphany is a sudden insight into essential meaning, new awareness triggered usually by a simple experience. To migrate is to go from one region or place to another. Each takes different forms for everyone. What makes them similar is that they both involve moving in ways of profound change.

Tradition holds that the Three Magi had the names Balthasar, Caspar and Melchior. Let recalling the Epiphany narrative in the Gospel of Matthew move you, if only for a moment, closer to adding your own name to the wise men. If it does – and hopefully it will if it hasn’t yet – may the Light bring you closer to finding a faith that shines royally, beautifully bright in the year ahead.

Jason Godin is managing editor of Fathers for Good