Cycle (B) The Epiphany of the Lord

Is 60:1-6; Eph 2:2-3, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

Some events and happenings are powerful enough to upset the life of an individual, or even to change the course of history.  In the play “Macbeth” Shakespeare shows how Macbeth’s life was influenced by the prophecy of the three witches. Macbeth was returning after a victorious battle. Then, in the wilderness, he was met by three witches. They greeted him, “Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” This unusual greeting upset the life of Macbeth.  Macbeth and Lady Macbeth together had dreams of Macbeth becoming king. He began to involve in foul means to become the next king. It forced him to murder the king. It made him assassinate many innocent men. Thus, he lost his peace and sleep.

There are many examples in history, that show that certain prophecies and events have a profound influence on individuals, often they shook their comfort zone and made them restless.  One of the greatest examples is King Herod. When he heard that a king was born for the Jews, he felt insecure and wanted to destroy the child that was going to be his rival. He assembled all the wise men in the palace and ascertained from them that the King of Jews would come from Bethlehem.

It was in Bethlehem that Jesus was born. Bethlehem was a quiet little town six miles to the south of Jerusalem. The name Bethlehem means “The House of Bread”, and Bethlehem stood in a fertile country side, which made its name a fitting one. Bethlehem had a long history. It was there that Jacob had buried Rachael. It was there that Ruth had lived. It was the home and city of David. It was in Bethlehem that the Jews expected great David’s greater son to be born.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem there came to do him homage wise men from the East. The name given to these men is Magi. The Magi were men who were skilled in philosophy, medicine and natural science. They were good and holy men who sought for truth. We do not know for certain what brilliant star those ancient Magi saw. But it was their profession to watch the heavens, and some heavenly brilliance spoke to them of the entry of a king into the world.

It may seem extraordinary that those men should set out from the East to find a king, but the strange  thing is that,  just about the time Jesus was born, there was in the world a strange feeling of expectation of coming of a king. Even the Roman historians knew about this. So, when Jesus came the world was in an eagerness of expectation. Men were waiting for God, and the desire for God was in their hearts. It was to a waiting world that Jesus came, and the ends of the earth were gathered at his cradle. It was the first sign and symbol of the world conquest of Jesus.

If the search of the Magi was inspired by their love for truth and the desire to lay at the feet of Jesus the noblest gifts they could bring, Herod’s curiosity sprang out of jealousy. Any king would have been worried at the report that a child had been born who was to occupy his throne. But Herod was doubly disturbed.  Suspicion was a terrible flaw in his character. He was almost insanely suspicious. He had murdered his wife Mariamne, her mother, and many of his own sons. He was well aware that no one would mourn for his death, and that he was determined that some tears should be shed when he died. So he had arrested and imprisoned a collection of the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem. He gave orders that the moment he died they should all be killed. It is clear how such a man would feel when news reached him that a child was born who was destined to be king. Herod was troubled, and Jerusalem, too, was troubled. For Jerusalem well knew the steps Herod would take to eliminate the child.

Jesus’ presence has disturbed many. Zachaeus was disturbed when he met Jesus, and he declared that he was going to be a changed man. Pilot felt disturbed at the trial of Jesus. Paul was disturbed, when he met Jesus, and it forced him to amend his life. St Francis was disturbed when he met Jesus, and he spent days in silent prayers to see what Jesus wanted him to do. Today, we too should feel this disturbance when we meet Jesus. Because, he interferes with our life and demands a total change. He comes into our hearts, and opens our eyes to see things differently and truly.

In one of William J Locke’s novels there is a picture of a woman who has a lot of money, and who has spent half of lifetime on a tour of the sights and picture galleries of the world. She is weary and bored. Then she meets a Frenchman who has little of this world’s good, but who has wide knowledge and a great love of beauty. He comes with her, and in his company things are completely different. She said to him, “I never knew what things were like until you taught me how to look at them.”  So life becomes quite different when Jesus teaches us how to look at things.

Once a wealthy gentle man went to meet a doctor. He said to the doctor, “Doctor, wherever I touch in my body I have terrible pain.” The doctor examined him. But, he could not find anything wrong with his body. Being his great friend, the doctor did not want to discourage him telling that he was perfectly alright. So the doctor invited some other specialist too, and sent him for scanning and other tests. They found that all his internal organs were perfectly functioning. But, the man was annoyed and impatient. He repeated his complaint that he felt intense pain wherever he touched in his body. One of the junior attendants was angry when he heard him cursing the doctors. He said to him, “Show me, the place where you find pain.” He touched his chest, face, arm etc. and said, “You see it pains everywhere.” The attendant happened caught his finger, and the man wreathed in agony. The attendant said, “My dear man your finger is fractured. The problem is not with your body; the problem is with your finger.”

The problem of Herod was that he was filled with suspicion and jealousy. Therefore he could not accept the king of kings, when he came. Even today Jesus manifests Himself to us in various ways, but we fail to recognize him. Where does our problem lie? What hinders us from discovering Him? We should respond to the manifestations of Jesus like the wise men who hastened to Bethlehem the moment they were told that the Messiah was born. Discover his plans for us day after day, and having discovered them submit to them with joy.