Epiphany [B] 1997

Fr. Charles Irvin

03JAN97 – [A,B & C Cycles]


Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

Strolling through gift shops you have probably seen countless little signs with brief thoughts or sayings on them. I have one on my desk in my room stating: “My Boss Is A Jewish Carpenter”. Recently I heard of a similar one telling us: “Wise Men Still Seek Him”.

The word “question” has the word “quest” tucked within it, an idea that’s presented to us in today’s gospel account from St. Matthew’s gospel. Epiphany invites us to join in the quest of the Wise Men as well as all Christian believers seeking to enter into the mystery of God, particularly the mystery of God become incarnate.

We live in a world of problems to be solved. A mystery, however, is not a problem to be solved, it is a quest to be lived. A well known sports figure was asked what his chief ambition in life was. He replied, “My chief ambition is to go to heaven.” The sports writer who was interviewing him thought it was a joke. The ball player responded: “My friend, I don’t think that’s funny. I know you don’t mean to be a smart aleck, but there’s something wrong with a person’s attitude when he’s flippant about the great mysteries of the universe.” And this man was a professional baseball player.

We, too, can be superficial when we miss the point in the account we’ve just heard in today’s gospel. We can get all wrapped up in solving the problem about where the star came from, where it was located in heaven, who the Wise Men really were and where they came from, and exactly how a heavenly star could guide them. So, too, when people try to analyze Christ’s miracles, attempting to explain them away by finding natural causes, completely missing God’s revelation that is made evident to us in them.

The gifts of the Magi are meant to express our human awe and reverence for the true, inner nature of the Christ child. Worldly powers, represented by the Three Kings, along with their powers of government over peoples, are placed at His feet. Gold, the currency of kings, is given to Him. Frankincense is the gift given to priests, bringing us into contact with the world of mystery and transcendence. Myrrh is an ointment used in the preparation of a body for burial; it’s significance being quite obvious in terms of this child’s destiny, as well as our own human destiny. Death is a mystery we all enter into as equals, regardless of how important or significant our lives have been during time here on earth. Death is a mystery to be lived rather than a problem to be solved.

Mysteries lead to discovery, or more accurately to revelation. When you encounter paradox and mystery, you are close to the gospels. For, quite obviously, God is bigger, more powerful, and infinitely more than anything we are. Mere data, mere information cannot possibly carry the weight, bear the load, of the enormity of Mystery, particularly theological mysteries. The only thing that’s strong enough to bear the full weight of revelation is mystery, along with poetic and symbolic language. Science and technology collapse under the enormity of it all.

Understanding, and the knowledge that leads to understanding is very important. We live in a university town, an intellectual community devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. The motto of University Hospital reads: “Knowledge Is Power”. Quite so. But wisdom is superior, deeper and far more profound a reality than is knowledge or understanding. Wisdom is found in the realms of mystery, and is the only true path to revelation.

We should not let our modern technological world and culture rob us of our innate sense of mystery. We should not let our children be deprived of having a childhood. We should not deprive ourselves of something that children can point to, namely the world of awe, reverence and mystery. To enter those realms we must, as Jesus told us, become as little children.

Children, as we all know, love stories. So do we – if we’re humble enough to admit it. The infancy narratives surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ are filled with wondrous stories. The story of Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the three Wise Men, is a story that invites us to be as little children once again, and with awe, reverence and wonder enter the world of Mystery, there to receive God’s revelation.

Is it a story that we regard with distant and unemotional objectivity? Is it merely the subject of cool intellectual curiosity? Or is it a wondrous, mystical story that invites us
to embark upon a quest, a journey that was there in the beginning at the birth of our Savior, and a journey or a pilgrimage that Christians have been embarked upon for 2,000 years now?

God has a Word for you – He has something to say to you. God has a vision for you, a revelation to give you. Are you willing to be a seeker and to journey with those Wise Men from the East?

For as the little sign in the gift shop says: “Wise Men Still Seek Him”.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”