Sunday, January 06, 2008

all the earth shall see

There are few Bible stories, in the New Testament, especially, that warm the heart and incite the imagination of the faithful like the story of the wise men from the east who venture out in search of the new-born King of the Jews.

We had great fun at the parish this weekend with the celebration of ‘The Three Kings’. We filled the parish hall twice, Saturday and Sunday, with kids of all ages. There were gifts, lots of good food, music and general carrying-on till the wee hours.

It doesn’t take much to get a party started on the Hispanic side of town, granted, but Matthew did a great service to the Church in general by including his dramatic and mysterious account of the Epiphany of our Lord in his infancy narrative.

From a purely historical standpoint, I suppose there’s not a whole lot to say. We know Herod was ‘king’ of Judah and that his temper and antics would have landed him on the Jerry Springer Show for sure in our day. We know that ‘magi’ of all sorts roamed the Middle East. We know that celestial events were frequently interpreted as harbingers of earthly happenings. We know that Israel and, in a more diffused way, the entire world awaited the Peace Maker...

But our focus is on the meaning of the Gospel passage. Our curiosity may never be satisfied, but what does it all mean?

First, what our liturgy most evidently offers for our reflection today: the Messiah – born a son of Israel, kin of David – came not only to fulfill the hopes and dreams of the Chosen People. The ‘good news’ is precisely that (as the reading from Ephesians proclaims today): even the gentiles, even the lost and indifferent, even those who have made sin an art form in our times... are included in the promise of salvation.

That is good news, indeed.

Second, Matthew gives us a stirring summary of what the Christian vocation is in a nutshell. The sign given by a God who wants to be known and loved by man, yet inexplicably hides himself from our science and our logic. The awakening of that latent hope that resides in everyone’s heart. The search: essence of human existence. The loss of direction, the confusion, the nearly fatal brush with evil and then, again, the reappearance of the star. And finally, the encounter. Not with empty hands, but with gifts... the best we have to offer.

The very fact that we long for and seek a God that does not see our gifts as ridiculous is, somehow, truly consoling.

I have a few paltry, poorly wrapped gifts that I would like to present to the One who comes to save. Hopefully this year will be a year of adventurous encounter with Him.