Feast of the Epiphany

COMMENTARY1ST READINGRESPONSORIAL2ND READINGGOSPEL
DR. BRANT PITRE

Mass Readings Explained

[This Sunday] we celebrate the mystery of the revelation, or the unveiling, of Christ’s kingship and his divinity

Every year on the Second Sunday after Christmas, the Church celebrates the great feast of Epiphany.  And on this feast the readings are the same; whether it’s year A, B, or C, we are going to look at the same readings every single year.  This is of course the great day where we celebrate the mystery of the revelation, or the unveiling, of Christ’s kingship and his divinity.  That is what Epiphany means, it is a kind of revelation or unveiling (or appearing is actually probably a better translation). 

SOURCE: Mass Readings Explained by Dr. Brant Pitre.

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AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

The Universal Royal Messiahship of Jesus Christ

The word “epiphany” means “appearance, revelation, or manifestation.”  Today’s feast celebrates the first of three joyful wonders that signified Jesus’ identity as the long-awaited Messiah.

The first epiphany was the visit of the Magi.  They followed a star from the East to find the King of the universe to give Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (the Gospel Reading).

The second was Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River and the first revelation of the Divine Trinity: God the Holy Spirit descended over God the Son in the form of a dove, and the divine voice of God the Father spoke from Heaven.

The third revelation occurred at the wedding feast at Cana when Jesus turned water into wine in His first miracle.

In the Gospel accounts of these three epiphanies, we learn that God appears in creation to move forward His divine plan. He reveals Himself as a guiding star, as a dove accompanied by a voice from Heaven, and in the gift of wine that miraculously came from stone jars of water to prefigure the miracle of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

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In the First Reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the symbolism of light dramatizes humanity’s hope of God appearing to a world darkened by sin.  The passage looks forward in time to Jesus Christ, “the Light of the world,” He who drives out the darkness of sin and death (Jn 1:5; 8:12).  He is a divine “Light” shining in the darkness prophesied by the holy prophets of God.

The Response Psalm response prepares us for the Gospel account of the visit of the Gentile Magi, promising: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”  In remembering the Magai’s journey and their adoration of the Christ-child, we celebrate the Christmas mystery of the manifestation (epiphany) of the universal dominion of the newborn King of kings.  In that event, God became visible, clothed in human flesh, to the Magi, who were the first Gentiles from among “the nations” to worship the Christ.

In our Second Reading, St. Paul wrote about the mystery of God’s plan to deliver Gentiles along with the Jews through Christ’s work of redemption.  He told the Ephesian Christians that the implementation of that plan to bring the Gentiles to salvation began with the Gospel message delivered by Jesus’ Apostles and disciples (see Acts 8:26-38 and 10:1-48).  However, Paul also wrote that Jesus specifically gave the Gospel message of salvation to him to deliver to the Gentiles as his life’s mission at the time of his conversion experience (Acts 9:15).

In the Gospel Reading, the gifts the Magi gave the Christ-child had cultural and theological significance.  They prostrated themselves in adoration, giving Jesus gifts of gold (a gift fit for a king), frankincense (incense used in worship and offered by priests), and myrrh (an aromatic spice produced from the gum resin of certain bushes or trees used in the preparation of the dead).  The Magi were the first Gentiles to respond to God’s call to the Gentile nations to come to salvation through Christ Jesus.  The Gentile Magi, who sought out the Christ-child, as opposed to Herod’s chief priests who made no effort to find Him, is a precursor to the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish religious leaders and the acceptance of Jesus’ message of salvation by the Gentiles.

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.
Navarre Bible, et alia

Catholic Commentary on Sunday Readings (PDF)

SHOW/HIDE PDF

NOT AVAILABLE FOR THIS SUNDAY

SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese. Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible, and others.
Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA

Hearers of the Word

Portable Commentary

EXCERPT #1: INITIAL OBSERVATIONS (GOSPEL)

GOSPEL: Initial observations

The readings from the Infancy Gospels bear an unusually close link to narratives in the Old Testament. Again, the writer is exploring the identity of Jesus, using citations and re-written narratives. It all may seem strange to us, but the original hearers—Jewish Christians—would have had no trouble picking up the resonances and going straight to the meaning expressed in the stories.

SOURCE: HEARERS OF THE WORD by Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA

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EXCERPT #2: OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND

Old Testament Background

(i) Behind the story of the magi—wise men— lies the story of Balaam from Numbers 22-24. In the Book of Numbers, an evil king of Moab tries to use the seer/magus Balaam to bring disaster on the people of Israel “because they were so numerous”. Against God’s will, Balaam obeys the king, but at the point of cursing Israel, Balaam utters an oracle of future hope. This oracle was read in later times as a Messianic promise.

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near— a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel;” (Num 24:17)

The author takes from this story the narrative of an evil King (Balak / Herod), trying to bring disaster (on Israel / on the Messiah), by means of Balaam (a seer / the Magi). The star in the story comes from Numbers 24:17 above and alerts the reader this time to Messianic fulfilment.

(ii) The gifts offered by the magi call to mind a universalist text in Isaiah:

“A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” (Is 60:6)

It was concluded from this text as well that the mode of transport of the magi was camels, although Matthew supplies no such detail.

(iii) The Magi as a symbol of the Gentiles comes from an echo in Psalm 72:

“May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts. May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.” (Psa 72:10-11)

(iv) Bethlehem, the city of David, is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament, unlike Nazareth. The proof text provided was, at the time, read as a messianic prophecy.

“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” (Mic 5:2).

SOURCE: HEARERS OF THE WORD by Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA

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AN ECUMENICAL BIBLICAL COMMENTARY (BIBLE STUDY)
RICHARD NIELL DONAVAN

Sermon Writer

FIRST READING EXEGESIS

  • ISAIAH 60-62:  THE CONTEXT
  • ISAIAH 60:1-2.  ARISE, SHINE; FOR YOUR LIGHT HAS COME
  • ISAIAH 60:3.  NATIONS SHALL COME TO YOUR LIGHT
  • ISAIAH 60:4.  THEY COME TO YOU
  • ISAIAH 60:5.  THEN YOU SHALL SEE AND BE RADIANT
  • ISAIAH 60:6.  THE MULTITUDE OF CAMELS SHALL COVER YOU

GOSPEL EXEGESIS

  • EPIPHANY
  • MATTHEW 2:1-12. THE CONTEXT
  • MATTHEW 2:1-2. WHERE IS HE WHO WAS BORN KING OF THE JEWS?
  • MATTHEW 2:3-6. IN BETHLEHEM OF JUDEA
  • MATTHEW 2:7-8. BRING ME WORD
  • MATTHEW 2:9-11. THEY OFFERED HIM GIFTS
  • MATTHEW 2:12. HAVING BEEN WARNED IN A DREAM
SOURCE: Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

Bible Study

by Richard Niell Donovan

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of Yahweh is risen on you” (v. 1). 

The people of Jerusalem have suffered through the darkness of a lengthy exile—and a difficult return to a Jerusalem that lay in ruins—and neighbors opposed to the rebuilding of the city and the temple.  They have been beaten down by circumstances—circumstances brought upon them by their sin—circumstances that constituted God’s judgment.
However, God has not punished them to destroy them, but to redeem them.  Now the time of their redemption has come, and it is time for them to receive it.  They have been living in the darkness of despair, but their “light has come”—”the glory of Yahweh is risen on” them.  That light is Yahweh, who has seemed so absent for so long.

“For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples; but Yahweh will arise on you, and his glory shall be seen on you” (v. 2). 

The exiles experienced spiritual darkness in their lengthy exile, but now the great reversal has begun.  It will be “the peoples” (Gentiles) who will be enveloped in “thick darkness,” and the former exiles who will experience the light of Yahweh’s glory.
We are reminded of an earlier verse, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  Those who lived in the land of the shadow of death, on them the light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2).

Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

This verse brings to mind the Wise Men from the East who came following the star to the place of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:1-12).

“they shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of Yahweh” (v. 6b). 

Gold and frankincense are valuable commodities that are compact and easy to transport.  Frankincense is an incense used in temple worship and to embalm dead bodies.  The Wise Men will bring Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

Your light has come!

Our Sunday Visitor

  • The showing forth of God’s glory is apparent in today’s passage from Isaiah.
  • All nations will walk by Jerusalem’s light, the glory of God within it.
  • The prophet announces to the people that even in the midst of darkness, they will forever be enlightened by the presence of God.
The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

Historical Context

IN BRIEF

INTRO: When the Jews began slowly to return from exile in Babylon, their capital Jerusalem was desolate. The prophet encourages them with images of brightness, then surprises them with the prediction that they will attract pagan nations to God.

This is from that part of the book of Isaiah where the author addresses the Jews trying to re-establish themselves in their homeland after a few decades in exile in Babylon. As these Notes said of the Isaiah, chapter 62, passage for the Christmas mass at dawn, “Other parts of this section of Isaiah (chapters 56-66), tell us how slow and frustrating that project was. Those already home fretted about the slow pace of the others’ return (‘Your sons come from afar, your daughters in the arms of their nurses.’) To get the flavor of it, imagine how American Southerners might have felt during Reconstruction, or a contemporary family might feel when they return to a fire-damaged home.”

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org — Used with permission.

Catholic Praxis

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you…
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.


🔴 CATHOLIC VIDEOS

RELATED: FOUR MARKS OF THE CHURCH


Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.


🔴 CATHOLIC VIDEOS

🔴 AGAPE STUDY NOTES

NEW TESTAMENT FULFILLMENT OF ISAIH'S PROPHECY

The Church Fathers saw the Magi’s gifts and adoration of the Christ-child as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in verse 6: Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.  

As the Gentile Magi beheld the Christ-child, They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Mt 2:11).

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.
SYMBOLS OF THE CHURCH'S UNIVERSALITY IN THE PASSAGE

The Church sees the symbols of her universality in Isaiah’s prophecy.  The nations of the earth will come in pilgrimage to the Church from the east and west. They will bring frankincense for worshipping the One True God and gold as a gift for Christ the King and His Kingdom of the Church that carries on His earthly mission of mercy, comfort, and forgiveness until His return.

Jesus Christ, “the Light of the world” (John 8:12), gave a mission to His disciples in every generation when He called them to become a reflection of His “light” by sharing His Gospel of salvation to illuminate the lives of others.  May the Holy Spirit instill this mission in you, and may the Church’s prayer at the beginning of the Mass be manifest in your life and the life of your faith community:

“Father, You revealed your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star.  Lead us to Your glory in Heaven by the light of faith.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.  Amen.”

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.

Bible Study

NAB Notes
* [Psalm 72] A royal Psalm in which the Israelite king, as the representative of God, is the instrument of divine justice (Ps 72:1–4, 12–14) and blessing (Ps 72:5–7, 15–17) for the whole world. The king is human, giving only what he has received from God. Hence intercession must be made for him. The extravagant language is typical of oriental royal courts.
* [PS 72:2] the king’s son: the crown prince is the king’s son; the prayer envisages the dynasty.
* [PS 72:8] From sea to sea…TO the ends of the earth: the boundaries of the civilized world known at the time: from the Mediterranean Sea (the western sea) to the Persian Gulf (the eastern sea), and from the Euphrates (the river) to the islands and lands of southwestern Europe, “the ends of the earth.” The words may also have a mythic nuance—the earth surrounded by cosmic waters, hence everywhere.
* [PS 72:10] Tarshish and the islands: the far west (Ps 48:6); Arabia and Seba: the far south (1 Kgs 10:1).

 


Response: Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

HOW THIS PSALM PREPARES US FOR THE GOSPEL

The Response Psalm response prepares us for the Gospel account of the visit of the Gentile Magi, promising: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”  In remembering the Magi’s journey and their adoration of the Christ-child, we celebrate the Christmas mystery of the manifestation (epiphany) of the universal dominion of the newborn King of kings.  In that event, God became visible, clothed in human flesh, to the Magi, who were the first Gentiles from among “the nations” to worship the Christ.

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;
the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.
All kings shall pay him homage,
all nations shall serve him.

FULFILLMENT OF THIS PASSAGE

The Church sees the fulfillment of this passage (especially verses 10-11) manifested in the Magi’s arrival and their adoration of the Christ-child (see Mt 2:1-12).  The Fathers of the Church also saw fulfillment in Jesus’ compassion for the afflicted (verses 12-13) and the universal reach of the salvation Jesus brought as the King-Messiah.

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.

Bible Study

by Richard Niell Donovan

NOT AVAILABLE FOR THIS READING

We all share the same promise!

Our Sunday Visitor

  • The earliest Christians, mostly Jews, struggled with the realization that even Gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation.
  • Today’s letter points out that people in former ages did not understand that God’s mercy extended to all people.
  • Gentiles and Jews are one body in Christ.
The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.
IN BRIEF

INTRO: Even Jewish converts to Christ maintained the ancient belief that Jews were God’s only chosen people. Paul says God has now revealed a long-secret mystery, namely that Gentiles, too, are to enjoy God’s favor, because of Christ.

HISTORICAL SITUATION: This reading, too, is about a revelation. The medium is not light piercing darkness, however, but the historical acting out of God’s once secret plan. The plan, as Paul now sees, was to nourish the Jews as God’s chosen people for a long time, then to extend God’s favor beyond the Jews to the Gentiles, by the coming of Jesus into the world. Ephesians is written by a Jew to Gentiles. So when Paul says something was “given to me for your benefit” he means “as a Jewish Christian I have something to pass on to you previously not-chosen people, something that has been kept from you until now.”

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org — Used with permission.

The earliest Christians, mostly Jews, struggled with the realization that even Gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation. Gentiles and Jews are one body in Christ.

The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

🔴 CATHOLIC VIEWPOINT

IN BRIEF: The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15)

The Church affirmed the equality of the Gentiles as coheirs with Jewish-Christians at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15.  St. Peter addressed the council and said of the Gentiles:

“My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe.  And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith, he purified their hearts” (Acts 15:7b-9).

At the Council of Jerusalem, the Apostles and early leaders of the Church recognized the fulfillment of God’s promised gift of universal salvation, prophesied by the prophets like Isaiah in our first reading, and carried out in the work of the earthly Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.

God’s mercy extends to all people. 

Jesus implemented this Divine plan by extending membership in His Church, making it available to all peoples. Thus, the Jews and the Gentiles “now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.” Hence, there are no second-class members in the Church among the faithful. If you’ve ever wondered what the word “Catholic” means, here we have it.  Derived from the Greek word meaning “according to the whole,” it means that Christ did not come to establish some local religious sect for a select few, one “cult” among many.  No, the Church He founded is “catholic” or universal, spread over the whole world, welcoming the whole human race into one nation, one family, under one King.

SOURCE: Rev. Michael Chua’s homily, “Lead us tothe Light, Lead us to the Truth” (January 2, 2019)

Bible Study

by Richard Niell Donovan

Differences between Jesus and Herod

• Jesus was born in a stable; Herod lives in a palace.
• Jesus is a helpless infant; Herod possesses great power.
• Jesus will prove to be a man of great compassion; Herod is cruel and violent.

Parallels between the stories of Moses and Jesus:

• Pharaoh ordered that all Hebrew baby boys should be killed (Exodus 1:16, 22), just as Herod does (2:16-18). The baby Moses was at risk, just as is the baby Jesus.
• Moses was saved by the intervention of Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2:1-10), just as Jesus is saved by a dream warning Joseph and Mary to flee (v. 11).
• As a young man, Moses, fearing for his life, fled from Pharaoh (Exodus 2:15).
• The Lord told Moses, “Go back to Egypt; for all those who were seeking your life are dead” (Exodus 4:19), just as an angel will say to Joseph, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2:19-20).
Matthew clearly intends for us to notice these parallels—and to see Jesus as a Moses-like figure. However, we need to remember this significant difference: While Moses (at God’s direction) saved Israel from its slavery, Jesus will save the world from its sins.

Allusions to the story of Balak and Balaam in Numbers 22-24.

There are at least four parallels between that story and the story of the Magi:
• A wicked king (Balak)
• A pagan soothsayer (Balaam)
• God’s intervention to foil the king’s plan
• A star (Numbers 24:17)

“They came into the house” (Mt 2:11a).

The Magi find Jesus in a house. Matthew’s reference to a house differs from the manger of Luke’s version of Jesus’ birth story (Luke 2:1-20). There are at least two possible explanations.
• First, it is likely that the manger area where Jesus was born (Luke 2:7) was part of a house, and the Magi may have come to that house.
• Second, a number of scholars think that a considerable time, as much as two years, has elapsed since Jesus’ birth. If that is the case, this could be a house where Joseph took up residence with his little family sometime after Jesus’ birth.

“and saw the young child with Mary, his mother” (Mt 2:11b).

There is no mention of Joseph here, although chapter 1 recounted his genealogy and his obedience to the angel’s command. He will reappear at 2:13, where the angel will tell him to take his family to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous plans—and Joseph will once again obey the angel’s command.

“and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:11c)

proskuneo is the word that you would use to picture ordinary people paying obeisance to a king. These great men see in this baby someone much greater than they. They kneel to Jesus, anticipating the day when “every knee (shall) bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue (shall) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

They opened their coffers and presented him with gifts

Our Sunday Visitor

  • Matthew’s Gospel clearly demonstrates that all the prophecies of old have come to fulfillment in Christ.
  • As promised, Gentile wise men recognize Jesus as Messiah even when the Jerusalem sages do not.
  • The official priests and scribes quote the messianic prophecies that identify Bethlehem, the city of David’s birth, as the birthplace of the Messiah.  However, they do not follow their own wisdom.
The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?

🔴 CATHOLIC VIEWPOINT

🔴 AGAPE STUDY NOTES

THE MAGI AND FULFILLMENT OF JEWISH PROPHECY

In profane Greek, the word Magi [magos] referred to members of the Persian priestly caste who believed they possessed knowledge revealed in the movement of the stars and planets.  It was a common belief in ancient times among Gentile peoples that the stars determined the destiny of men, and the appearance of certain celestial phenomena signaled the birth or death of kings.

The Magi believed the new star they observed was fulfilling a Jewish prophecy that foretold a king’s birth.  The Jews lived in exile in Persia for 70 years after the Babylonian conquest (2 Chron 36:21-22; Jer 25:11-13; 29:10).  During that time, the prophecies concerning the promise of the Davidic Messiah may have become known to the Persians.  They must have connected those prophecies of a star/ruler advancing over Jacob/Israel to the new star they followed to Judea.  The star the Magi followed could not have been a natural star or planet because it did not rise and set like ordinary stars and planets.  Instead, it led them for months on their journey to a specific destination.

Several Old Testament prophecies are recalled in Matthew’s telling of the story of the Magi:

  • The “star” is the ruler foretold to rise from Jacob (referring to Israel) in Numbers 24:17.
  • The coming of a ruler from Judah recalls Jacob’s deathbed prophecy of kingship for Judah in Genesis 49:10.
  • Micah 5:1-3 prophesized the birth of the Davidic Messiah in Bethlehem.
  • The tribute and worship of the Gentile Magi recall the prophecy of homage and gifts of the Gentile rulers to a future Davidic king in Psalm 72:10, Isaiah 49:23, 60:6.
SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Used with permission.
🟢 AGNUS DAY

comic

Used with the permission of Pastor James Wetzstein at www.agnusday.org.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

🔵 VIDEO DRAMATIZATIONS

The Triple Reaction to Jesus’ Birth

by Fr. Tony Kadavil

The Epiphany can be looked on as a symbol for our pilgrimage through life to Christ. The feast invites us to see ourselves in the Magi – a people on a journey to Christ. Today’s Gospel also tells us the story of the encounter of the Magi with the evil King Herod. This encounter demonstrates three reactions to Jesus’ birth, a) Hatred: a group of people headed by Herod planned to destroy Jesus; b) Indifference: another group, composed of priests and scribes, ignored Jesus; c) Adoration: the members of a third group — shepherds and the magi — adored Jesus and offered themselves to Him.

THE DESTRUCTIVE GROUP

King Herod considered Jesus a potential threat to his kingship. Herod the Great was a cruel, selfish king who murdered his mother-in-law, wife, two brothers-in-law and three children on suspicion that they had plotted against him. In today’s Gospel, Herod asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born.

Their answer tells him, and us, much more, combining two strands of Old Testament promise – one revealing the Messiah to be from the line of David (see 2 Samuel 2:5), the other predicting “a ruler of Israel” who will “shepherd his flock” and whose “greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth” (see Micah 5:1-3) (Dr. Hann). Later, the scribes and Pharisees would plot to kill Jesus because Jesus had criticized them and tried to reform some of their practices.

Today, many oppose Christ and the Church because of their selfish motives, evil ways, and unjust lives. Children still have Herods to fear. In the United States alone, one and a half million innocents, unborn children are aborted annually.

THE IGNORE CHRIST GROUP

The scribes, the Pharisees, and the Jewish priests knew that there were nearly 500 prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah. They were able to tell Herod the exact time and place of Jesus’ birth. They were in the habit of concluding their reading from the prophets on the Sabbath day by saying, “We shall now pray for the speedy arrival of the Messiah.”

Unfortunately, they were more interested in their own selfish gains than in discovering the truth. Hence, they refused to go and see the child Jesus — even though Bethlehem was quite close to Jerusalem.

Today, many Christians remind us of this group. They practice their religion from selfish motives, like gaining political power, prestige, and recognition by society. They ignore Jesus’ teachings in their private lives.

THE WORSHIP JESUS GROUP

This group was composed of the shepherds and the Magi. The shepherds offered the only gifts they had: love, tears of joy, and probably woolen clothes and milk from their sheep. The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, were following the star that Balaam had predicted would rise, along with the ruler’s staff, over the house of Jacob (see Numbers 24:17). The Magi offered gold, in recognition of Jesus as the King of the Jews; frankincense, in acknowledgment that He was God, and myrrh as a symbol of His human nature.

“Like the Magi, every person has two great ‘books’ which provide the signs to guide this pilgrimage: the book of creation and the book of sacred Scripture. What is important is that we be attentive, alert, and listen to God who speaks to us, who always speaks to us.” (Pope Francis)

Magi’s Worship, Features of

Allegorical and Moral Interpretations