Homily, Epiphany, Year A, 2011
Fr. Paul D. Williams, Jr., St. Joseph's
The three Magi came to Bethlehem bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gold represents all that is valuable in the world, material things and comfort we seek in this life. So the gold honored Jesus as King of the World, the Prince of Peace. Frankincense was used to represent prayers rising to heaven, a fragrance which was pleasing to God. So the frankincense was used to honor Jesus’ Divinity, the Mighty God. And myrrh is used for embalming, representing death and sacrifice – Christ was given myrrh mixed with wine on the cross, and he was anointed with myrrh in anticipation of his burial. So myrrh honors his humanity as our Savior who was destined to die on the Cross, Jesus’ supreme gift of self.
So when we come to Jesus today, we come to him bringing gifts as well. The gifts of gold we bring are all that we value in this life; we bring it to the feet of Jesus and make him the center and focus of all that we do, in our work, our recreation, our belongings and material things, our family. By doing this, we show him that we are not attached to the goods of this world and have not tried to serve two masters: God and mammon.
The gifts of frankincense we bring are our prayers, our spiritual life, our relationship with God. If we would have but faith, we would know that our prayers pleasing to God, rising up to him like incense and not stopping till they reach his throne in heaven.
The gifts of myrrh we bring are all of the sacrifices we make for the Lord. All the times during the day that we are called to “die to self” and sacrifice our own comfort, welfare, or convenience for the sake of others.
And when we do make these gifts to Jesus, they should come from our whole selves, and we should not be afraid to give what we have, even if it seems little. For the other gift-bearers in Bethlehem were the shepherds. And while they could not bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they came to Jesus with what they had: perhaps a lamb for wool to keep him warm, some cheese and milk and butter from goats to keep him and Joseph and Mary well fed. It didn’t matter that their gifts were small; they were precious just the same to our Lord.
Coming to the child Jesus in Bethlehem is a journey of faith. The Shepherds trusted in the word of the angel, and we must likewise trust in God’s word, which we find revealed in Sacred Scripture and in the teachings of the Church. We must stay close to his commandments so that we can avoid those who would deceive us with false and deceitful teachings and ideas. And we must be prepared to find Jesus in the simple things in life, in the poor, the lonely, and abandoned, in all aspects of our lives.
And on this journey of faith, we must persevere, especially when we are tempted to doubt or discouraged by the difficulty of the path. The three wise men followed the star no matter where it lead, and we must do the same. The star we seek, the star we follow is Christ our King who gives light to the world; Christ our Mighty God, who hears our prayers and answers them; Christ our Savior, who suffered and died for us so that our sins might be forgiven and we could experience God’s presence in our lives. And when we find him, we must offer him all that we are, all the gifts we have to give, for in return, he will give us salvation, eternal life, and his very self.
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