Bringing Our Gifts to the King
Solemnity of the Lord’s Epiphany
Lots of people are often surprised that there is no mention of the term “three kings” in the Gospel readings connected to the Solemnity of the Epiphany. There is no mention of the names of Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar either. What’s often overlooked in the Gospel reading is that it uses the word magi, which means wise men. There was even no mention as to how many of them were present during that visit. Perhaps the association or assumption that there were three of them, and the tradition that developed from it, came from the mention of the three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. That would perhaps be the only logical explanation as to the association that there were three of them who visited.
Another thing to consider in the Gospel reading is that these wise men were said to have come from the east. It is quite clear, then, that these are not Jews who hold on to the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. If you think about it from a Jewish point of view, the Messiah should not even be of any concern to them.
Yet there they are, even to the point of raising the question to Herod. It is even striking that the words they used are “newborn king of the Jews’”. How troubling this must be for Herod! Being the king with all the power, only to hear such words, he must have felt threatened to the core!
Yet these wise men were unperturbed, for they were able to arrive at this knowledge by reading the signs that lay before them, and the knowledge that they possess as they travelled to Bethlehem. In fact, they did not hesitate to follow the star, all the way to the manger. And upon seeing the child, they knew He was the one, and they bowed down, offered their gifts, and paid Him homage. We could only wonder how Mary may have first reacted to this, but if yesterday’s Gospel reading would be an indication, then she most definitely responded in the same manner as she did when the shepherds visited: she kept all these things and pondered on them in her heart.
One might wonder as to why the magi presented such gifts to the Christ child, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, standard gifts of offering to kings in the ancient times. Gold is definitely symbolic of kingship, no doubt about that. Frankincense, used as burnt offering in the temple, symbolizes the priestly mission of Christ, and myrrh, an anointing oil, of the prophetic mission of Christ which led to the Paschal Mystery of His suffering, death, and resurrection. Oil, perfume, and spices are, in fact, not mere commodities at that time, but speaks volumes of a persons place in the entire social strata, and frankincense and myrrh are definitely of value at that time. If we reflect on the contradiction of Christ’s place of birth, and the kind of gifts that He received from the wise men, then we would realize the reality of Christ’s kingship in our lives, and how He chooses to be the kind of king to us and for us, manifesting Himself, not just to Israel, but to the world, as evidenced by the visit of the magi from the east.
The magi brought such precious gifts to our Lord. But what about us? What do we offer our Lord?
There was a story of St. Jerome (renowned for his translation of the Bible from Hebrew to Latin, or known as the Vulgate) who, in one of his meditations during Christmas night, had a vision of the Christ child who asked him,
“Jerome, what will you give me for my birthday?”
St. Jerome offered many answers: his prayers, his heart, his works, his whole self. Yet, our Lord always asked for more.
Finally, St. Jerome asked, “O Divine Infant, I have nothing more. What is it that I can give you?”
Our Lord responded with a smile on his lips, “Jerome, give me your sins.”
This surprised St. Jerome, who asked, “What will you do with my sins, my Lord?”
“Give me your sins, so that I may pardon all of them.”
This brought Jerome to weep out of joy and love for our Lord.
So many times we always look to give only the best to our Lord, always only the best foot forward for him, and it’s not wrong at all. But our Lord deserves more, and He is full of so much love that even our sins, if offered for him to pardon us and make us whole once more, can even be a beautiful gift to him. In fact, it might even be the most beautiful among all the gifts we could give.
On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord, as He manifests Himself to the world and in our lives, let us be more than willing to offer what we have and who we are, both good and bad, as gifts to our Lord, and offer it daily! Let Him be the one to transform things and make it whole for us, make us whole for him. Trust that these are more than enough to please the Lord.
A blessed Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord to all.