Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

1/4/2015 (6 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Epiphany refers to the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles represented by the magi.

The first sentence of this Sunday's gospel (Mt 2:1-12) presents us with a contrast between three figures: Jesus, Herod the Great, and the magi who search the night for the focal point of a star's light, the newborn king of the Jews. Herod stands in between, not as a bridge but as an obstruction whose evil intent is to destroy the Child the magi seek. Herod represents the opposite of the divine mission of Jesus as well as the goal the magi have in mind in seeking out the Son of God made man.

Highlights

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/4/2015 (6 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: epiphany, magi, newborn king of the jews, herod the great, King Herod, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, solemnity of the epiphany, Word made flesh, Deacon F. K. Bartels


GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online)--There is something special about the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. We are reminded on this day as we celebrate this solemnity within the context of the divine liturgy that the Son of God came for all people, Jew and Gentile alike. His saving love is available to everyone, everywhere, in whatever state of life they may find themselves. There is no one outside of God's thirst for love.

The first sentence of this Sunday's gospel (Mt 2:1-12) presents us with a contrast between three figures: Jesus, Herod the Great, and the magi who search the night for the focal point of a star's light, the newborn king of the Jews. Herod stands in between, not as a bridge but as an obstruction whose evil intent is to destroy the Child the magi seek. Herod represents the opposite of the divine mission of Jesus as well as the goal the magi have in mind in seeking out the Son of God made man.

In comparing and contrasting these three figures, we can learn an important lesson about how to live our life.

Let's begin with Jesus. What was he about? Why did the Son of God appear in time? Why did the Son of God become man? Articles 456-460 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explain why the Word was made flesh:

The "Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God" (457). "The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love" (458). "The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness" (459). "The Word became flesh to make us partakers of the divine nature . . . so that we might become" sons and daughters of God (460).

The Word became flesh out of boundless love for humanity, that we may have life and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10).

Herod, on the other hand, displayed by his actions something of an entirely different sort. When we think of Herod, we think of tyrants who left terrifying scars on human history--men such as Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), and Ivan IV "the Terrible," to name only a few.

Herod the Great was part of a non-Jewish (Edomite) family that held political favor with Rome. He first ruled Galilee and then all of Palestine. He took power in Jerusalem in 37 B.C., and was later appointed "king of the Jews" by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C. to replace the collapsing dynasty of Jewish priestly rulers. He held on to his throne until death. He is credited with initiating and completing extensive building projects, of which the renovation of the Jerusalem Temple, which he rebuilt and expanded, is the most well known.

Herod was disturbed by the "star" the magi followed because it recalled Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah. In Numbers 24:17, we read Balaam's prediction: "a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel." Herod was troubled by this prophecy, since he was an Edomite and knew the same oracle foretold disaster for his family: "Edom shall be dispossessed" (Num. 24:18).

Herod's unrelenting fear was the loss of his power. That a newborn king had been born was an intolerable threat. With typical worldly maneuvering, Herod seeks to stamp out Jesus and thus yet again secure his political position. As we know, he ordered the death of the Holy Innocents in an attempt to rid himself of this perceived threat. However, Jesus was not the least interested in temporal thrones, worldly power or amassing perishable riches. He wishes not to take anything from Herod. On the contrary, Jesus wants to give something to Herod, something Herod cannot possibly win in any political power-play.

Jesus came to give himself and therefore his kingdom to others. But this is a type of kingdom Herod apparently could not fathom. This kingdom is not of the world. It cannot be taken by force, coercion or political intrigue.

Herod is infamous for his ruthlessness and single-minded devotion to wiping out his enemies, whether friends or family or anyone else who threatened his throne. History records that Herod murdered his favorite wife and three of his sons.

By worldly standards, Herod was the accomplished political survivor; the powerful ruler who would do whatever it takes to maintain his high seat in his own country. Given his building projects, the restoration of the Temple, and his ability to outmaneuver his opponents, some in his time likely saw him as a visionary.

But he was not.

The magi were likely astrologers from Persia who were interested in an extraordinary "star" that appeared shining over the location of the infant king of the Jews. However, it was not merely the "star" that caught their eye. For Someone had first caught their hearts.

While Herod was murderously holding on, the magi were wisely letting go.

They were watching and waiting not with intent to murder, but intent on finding new hope and new life. They were surveying the night sky not to insulate themselves but to open themselves to the Divine Other who is himself the source of life. The magi were looking not merely for a sign from God, but rather for Christ himself, who is the Word made flesh and the perfect image of the Father. Moved by the promise of what they perceived in the heavens, they left their country behind in search of not merely a star, but THE STAR.

Herod is looking for the wrong things, searching in the wrong places, destroying to shore-up his political position, conspiring to annihilate perceived opponents. But the magi take the humble, submissive and wise approach. They seek what is right and true and beautiful. They journey in search of the good, the wondrous, the ultimate. They head out into the dangerous night, risking their lives in search of Divine Light.

The magi are the visionaries.

The star they saw was a sign for all people. It is high and in full view. Its light shines down upon the real Star, Jesus Christ, who came to heal, elevate and restore humanity. The light of Jesus Christ, represented by the star over Bethlehem, illuminates the mystery of man, points the way, and reveals the path to salvation and eternal life.

While one day the Star will give up its life for many, its Light will never fade.

It's important to ask yourself, "What type of journey am I on?" Who or what do I pursue? What am I willing to leave behind, what am I willing to risk to find God? Am I surveying the night sky to gain power, or to survive in a fallen world, or to live forever in eternal communion with God, held securely in his loving embrace?

Perhaps you once sought but no longer. Perhaps the evanescent lure of the world has deflected you from the journey of illumination in Christ, and forced you off course by your own consent toward the path of darkness. Perhaps your vision has become clouded. If so, turn to the Newborn King, whose vision heals and clarifies and restores; turn to Christ whose love heals and gives sight to the blind, bringing light to those who before could not see.

Jesus Christ is THE VISIONARY. His journey is the one to follow. Christ is the Star whose divine light gives meaning to our lives and completes our journey.

In Jesus' vision, there is eternal life for humanity; within this divine vision of love, we will be made like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2). The Son of God became man that we might become like God.

There is no greater vision.

St. Leo the Great wrote: "Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God's own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God."

After the magi visited Jesus, they are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and "departed for their country by another way" (Mt 2:12).

An encounter with the true King of the Jews changes us forever. We might travel back to our country, but it's no longer the familiar home. We might again inhabit old places, but we no longer truly live there. Perhaps we go back to work, to school or to college, but we are different; things are different. The old self is left behind, the new self journeys onward into the new night devoid of darkness. The illumination of the Star guides our every step and movement; the way is no longer uncertain; we are no longer alone. Life is new. We have found an unwavering and certain security in the Light who is Jesus Christ and the Star who infinitely loves.

Life becomes lively, exhilarating and joyful even in the midst of suffering. We become truly free.

In an encounter with the true Visionary, we do not simply embrace his vision but become part of it. We become one with him.

-----

Deacon Fred Bartels serves the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado, as a member of the Catholic Clergy. He is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at joyintruth.com

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More U.S.

Will religious beliefs be acknowledged when Boy Scouts starts allowing gay leaders, volunteers? Watch

Image of Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, Ohio, a Cub Scout den leader who was kicked out in 2012 for being openly gay, embraces her son Cruz Burns.

By Kevin J. Jones, CNA/EWTN News

The Boy Scouts of America is moving to change its leadership standards in order to allow openly homosexual adult leaders and volunteers. While the organization promises that individual church-affiliated councils can choose their own leaders, at least one critic ... continue reading


THE THIRD VIDEO: The latest and most shocking footage of Planned Parenthood's abortion practices (WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO) Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

First there was a video revealing Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola casually discussing selling aborted baby organs over lunch, and admitting to using partial-birth abortions to get her hands on intact ... continue reading


Planned Parenthood HACKED, private employee information revealed Watch

Image of

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Planned Parenthood's website was hacked by a group of hackers who managed to gain access into Planned Parenthood and acquire the site's databases, including the names and email addresses of employees. These details were released by the hackers to the public. MUNTINLUPA ... continue reading


Threatening note promising revenge attacks found on U.S. military serviceman's car Watch

Image of The anonymous note comes just a week after the tragic shooting at military locations in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Under the windshield wiper of a car, owned by an unidentified serviceman, was a note warning the military of a revenge under investigation. Authorities believe the car was targeted because of the license plate identified the owner is a part of the military service. ... continue reading


Missouri Sheriff's 'inspiring' phrase on police patrol cars enrages atheists Watch

Image of Stone County police cars now have

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Missouri sheriff made the decision to adorn all of his station's police patrol cars with the words, "In God We Trust." It has quickly sparked up a major debate and inevitably, atheist activists are quite frustrated about it. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES -The Missouri ... continue reading


Humility not Haughtiness: Dana Milbank is Absolutely Wrong about Rick Santorum Watch

Image of Pictured: Rick and Karen Santorum at campaign launch

By Keith A Fournier

Dana Milbank was wrong in insinuating that Rick Santorum's use of the third person in referring to his campaign was akin to a - royal we. To the contrary, it reveals the heart of a humble man who deeply cares about others. Humility is such a rare quality these days ... continue reading


Does Planned Parenthood Contribute Anything of Value to Society?

Image of Margaret Sanger

By Matt C. Abbott

Granted, the Church's infallible teaching on the intrinsic immorality of contraception is derided by the libertine left, and too few Catholics assent to it. (At least some of the blame for this sad reality falls on weak and dissident clergy, but that's a subject ... continue reading


Obama to Abortionists: Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you. Watch

Image of President Obama at Planned Parenthood conference

By Ken Blackwell

In two startling videos, we have seen Planned Parenthood leaders engaged in a ghoulish traffic in the organs of unborn children whom they have killed. My colleague at Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, discussed this horror on his recent radio show in an ... continue reading


Mystery man found decomposing inside his car identified by fiancee as an undercover agent

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A man was found dead and decomposing inside his car, parked in a neighborhood in Southern California last Friday. Apparently, he had already been dead for two weeks when he was discovered. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - CBS Sacramento Local reported that ... continue reading


Disgusting, horrific stories of abuse: 68-year-old man drugged, sexually abused and performed surgical procedures on a young girl for six years Watch

Image of Girl [not pictured] experiences traumatizing abuse for six years. [Photo by: Alamy]

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A 68-year-old man has drugged a young girl, sexually assaulted her with sharp objects and sucked fat from her stomach to inject into her breasts over a devastating span of six years. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - According to the police, Louis Romano ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-9, 28
7 Moses used to take the Tent and pitch it outside ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 103:6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13
6 Yahweh acts with uprightness, with justice to all ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:35-43
35 This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 28th, 2015 Image

St. Innocent I
July 28: Innocent was born at Albano, Italy. He became Pope, succeeding ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter