Kuwait City, 3-5.1.2014.
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a.5-6; Mt 2:1-12
The Epiphany or “manifestation” of the Lord is the final event in the cycle of the Incarnation, which is comprised of three events: the Annunciation, the Nativity and concludes with the Epiphany.
What the Epiphany signifies is that the new-born Child-God Jesus, has been manifested or revealed as the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. All three of these important titles that pertain to Christ contain a special mission or vocation, which show that Jesus is the Promised One of the Lord, who came from God and is himself God incarnate, and that the purpose of his coming into this world is to complete God’s plan of salvation.
The three wise men or kings, who travelled from the East to Bethlehem searching for the newborn King and Saviour, represent the pagan religions and nations that were to receive and accept the divine message of the Gospel of salvation from the Lord.
While recalling this great event of the Epiphany, we too are invited today, to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God and Saviour. There are three ways we can approach Jesus or react to his coming into our lives. The Gospel provides us with a vivid example of these three reactions.
The first reaction is that of hatred and hostility. Herod simply wanted to kill the child. This newborn babe, as innocent and powerless as all babies are, was already a threat to Herod’s throne, his power and life. The thought of another king in Israel, even though only a child, was too great a disturbance for the evil ruler’s lust for power. Thus, he did not want any part of him and decided to kill his weak opponent, hoping that he would be eliminated along with all the other male children he ordered slaughtered. Unfortunately, there is still plenty of hostility towards Christ and his followers in our world today. Recent statistics show that despite media reports presenting the contrary, all Christian religions together are the most persecuted religious group in our world. Many of our brothers and sisters are suffering for the simple reason that they believe in and belong to Christ. Let us keep them in our prayers and pray for their persecutors, that they may not be so afraid of Christ and so hostile to his followers.
A second reaction is one of complete indifference to Jesus. The Scribes and priests of Jesus’ time knew that God had promised a Messiah to the people of Israel. They were also aware that he was to come from the lineage or family of King David and to be born in Bethlehem. Though they knew all these things, the birth of Jesus had no meaning for them at all. They preferred their own rituals, laws and habits to this event. Pope Paul VI once said that possibly the greatest sin of our modern times is the sin of indifference towards God. Too many people still prefer to remain indifferent and are not concerned about God, which only results in disrespect and a lack of interest to mankind and a very meaningless existence.
The third reaction is one of loving worship. The three wise men are an example of humanity in search for God. Though they were considered kings or wise men, they made plenty of mistakes along their journey. They arrived in the wrong city, lost sight of the star they were following, spoke of the child to the child killer, searched for a king and wound up finding God. Yet at the same time, their journey is that of believers who patiently kept on searching until they reached their goal and found the king they were looking for in the form of a child with Mary his mother.
They then adored and worshiped him with humility, offering their finest gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. To those that sincerely seek God in their lives, with courage, patience and determination, God makes himself known to them in due time and this becomes a personal Epiphany. This individual discovery of God then leads to a spontaneous desire to surrender oneself to him by generously offering one’s gifts and talents, however great or insignificant, which become our worship and adoration of the Lord.
The gifts of the three wise men were also very symbolic. Myrrh was a sweet balm used for burial purposes. By offering Jesus myrrh they were recognizing the fact that he was a man destined to die some day. Frankincense or simply incense, has a sweet perfume, which is offered up in worship to God and used in liturgical celebrations. This gift showed that they believed the child came from God and indeed was God incarnate. The third and most valuable gift was gold, which is offered to kings. Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and it is most fitting that the best gifts possible be offered to him.
Myrrh and frankincense are not used that much today because they are not as popular as they once were. Gold could certainly be useful, but many can’t afford it. Yet we can offer up our lives to Jesus on a daily basis. This means offering our bodies and our hearts, which are symbolized in myrrh. We can give God our worship, by keeping our faith in him strong through a constant prayer-life and receiving the sacraments regularly. This would be our incense offered up to the Lord. Finally, we can give God our finest gift, which is actually greater than any gold, and this is our love. The person who has personally encountered God in his or her life can only remain astounded by his greatness and majesty, by the mystery of his taking upon himself our human form and yet staying divine. We cannot help but be attracted to the simple humanity of the Child Jesus who invites us to discover his divinity and to believe that he is the way the truth and the life (Jn 14:6), who gives our lives such meaning and offers us eternity.
Jesus is our Messiah, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, who has revealed himself in the past and constantly reveals himself personally to us when we seek him with faith. May Christ the Lord give us the faith we need to follow his guiding light all the days of our lives. If we do not feel threatened by his entering into our lives and are not indifferent to him, we can then search for him without fear as the wise men from the East did and the Lord shall make himself known to us. Our response of loving adoration shall then be to place ourselves at his service, which is the best gift we can offer in return.