The word epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia which means “divine manifestation” or in simple terms we say “revelation”. At the epiphnay, humanity was able to see the face of God for the first time. Jesus made himself manifest first to two groups of people namely the shepherds and the magi. They were the first recipients of the divine manifestation: the shepherds who knew nothing and the magi who did not know everything. Both were the first ones who saw the face of God made man.
In popular piety we call the magi as the three kings and later tradition gave them their names: Melchior, Balthasar and Gaspar. More than just historical personages, the three magi represented humanity searching for the fullness of life. Each of them carried the longing of man to see the face of God and to encounter the Divine. That was the goal of their journey: to encounter God! In that journey, it was not just about the effort of man in the search but also the guidance of God in the symbolism of the star. In the darkness of our own search, God always provides us with stars in many different forms that will eventually lead us to encounter Him. The star may be a friend, spouse, parents or even strangers, and sometimes an experience. Sometimes we are that star to other people so that through us, they are able to meet and encounter God?
In their search, they encountered King Herod who was the epitome of evil wanting to kill goodness. As there are stars in our journey, there will always be people who will hinder us to encounter God. If we look closer at the story in the gospel today, Herod was even making a ploy that he also wanted to encounter the Divine but his motive was to kill God. That is why we have to be very careful how to handle the many Herods in our life.
It is in obedience to the guidance of the star that the wise men were able to find the child. If we only have to obey the many ways of God, He will lead us to find Him. When they found the child, they were overjoyed. The joy of finding the child with Mary was a symbol of the reward of man’s search for meaning. Jesus is the joy of our hearts.
After they prostrated themselves and paid the child homage, they opened their gifts of gold for the king, frankincense for the priest and myrrh for the prophet who was about to die. Why do we search for God? Simply because we want something from Him. Why do we pray to God? Because we need Him. With the three kings, it was different. They searched God not because they needed something from Him but because they had something to give. When we encounter God, we do not need anything from Him; we just have to give ourselves to Him without reserve. Then that’s the time when we have everything and that was the experience of the joy of the three kings.
After the encounter, they did not go back to Herod, instead they took a different route back home. A true divine encounter ushers in a complete turn about from the old way of life to a life of truth and goodness. We have to make a different route away from the evil one who wants to kill the God within us. When we do this, we have the wisdom of the three wise men!
And why did the three wise men have to go back home? Because their journey did not end in finding Jesus, but rather their journey continues in a life of witnessing to others who were not able to meet the Child Jesus in Bethlehem. It is through us that other people will be able to see Jesus and encounter God when we share to them our experience of meeting Jesus in our own Bethlehem....