THE MANIFESTATION TO THE NON-JEWS
(A biblical reflection on THE SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, Sunday – 2 January 2022)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalms: Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-13; Second Reading: Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6
The Scripture Text
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern My people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared, and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found Him bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:1-12 RSV).
Today’s feast, also known as “the Manifestation to the Gentiles,” celebrates the call of Gentiles, or non-Israelites, to salvation. Many first century Jews were eagerly awaiting a Messiah who would deliver them from foreign oppression and reestablish Israel as God’s dwelling place. But Jesus did not come to deliver His people from political bondage. He came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 2:21). In Jesus, the Father set out to create one universal Church encompassing women and men of every nation.
This is where the magi come in, the first Gentiles to whom Jesus was made manifest. They came seeking the “King of the Jews,” but found the King of the universe instead! And who were these magi? They probably were not kings, but astronomers and astrologers combined together. They were experts in “stars” as well very good zodiac readers. These “wise men” were wise in that they were searching for truth and undertook a long and arduous journey just to find it. An when they found Jesus, who is truth incarnate, they bowed down in worship – the surest sign of wisdom.
Just as Jesus at His birth drew wise men from afar, so today He draws people of all backgrounds to Himself. People all over the world, whether consciously or unconsciously, are searching for the truth and life found in the person of Jesus. There is not one person, no matter how far from the truth they seem, to whom Jesus does not want to manifest His presence and love.
So, let us commit ourselves to praying that people of every religious and cultural background come to know salvation and experience the fullness of life that God offers them through Jesus. Let us pray for those who are sincerely seeking the truth, especially those who seem to be looking in the wrong places. Let us ask God for the wisdom to recognize those people with whom He wants us to share His light and love. As Pope Saint John Paul II once encouraged, let us be like that star that guides others to the light of Christ, “so that individuals and peoples in search of truth, justice, and peace may come to Jesus, the one Savior of the world.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for revealing that Your plan of salvation is meant for everyone, including myself. Help all those who are searching for You to find the light of truth in Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.
Jakarta, 1 January 2022 [Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God]
A Christian Pilgrim