“Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” Gospel reading for the Epiphany.
A major problem we have today is that we read the nativity story as an idyll, a romantic/nostalgic story of the past with no bearing for today. We forget how Our Blessed Virgin was a mother who conceived her first child out of wedlock, and found herself homeless, looking for a place to give birth to her first born.
Herod sums things up in our Gospel account for Epiphany, but not for the wise men. He does it for us. A pun works in the Aramaic of our story. “Bethlehem,” means, “House of Bread.” “Beth/House,” “Lehem/Bread.” “Judah” comes from the root, “Yad/Hand,” and means, “Thanksgiving.” Genesis 29:35 gives the definition. A month ago, we celebrated our Thanksgiving as Americans. Each Sunday we celebrate Thanksgiving for what Jesus did for us. We go to the house of bread each Sunday, in the land of thanksgiving, Mass, and we find Jesus in a feeding trough, the ciborium the Eucharistic/Thanksgiving minister holds as he distributes the host/victim.
“Go and search diligently for the child.” This has a four-fold meaning. We come early to Mass and we meditate upon what we see around us, the mural in front of us; the Stations of the Cross; the statues and the paintings we see around us. Secondly, we go and search diligently for Jesus in the tabernacle, and look to see Jesus in the bread and wine, now body and blood of Jesus. Finally, we go and search diligently for Jesus in the Liturgy of the Word, in the Sacred tradition, the writings of the Church Fathers, and more importantly, in the Sacred Scriptures.
As we go and search diligently, we find our passage defines leadership. The wise men bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and Myrrh. Using the Aramaic, we find gold, Lebanon, and Myrrh. These are the gifts of kingly power, Lebanon, or liturgy, and the gift of Myrrh. We are all prophets. Indeed, the Aramaic for King is the same word as Angel, or messenger. Our Psalm for today is Psalm 72:
Give your judgment to the king; your justice to the king’s son; to govern your people with justice/charity, your oppressed with right judgment/from the lips. This is so that the mountains will yield their bounty for the people, and the hills great abundance, to defend the oppressed among the people, save the children of the poor and crush the oppressor… May all kings bow before him, all nations serve him. He rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help. He shows pity to the needy and the poor and saves the lives of the poor. From extortion and violence, he redeems them. Precious is their blood in his sight. The end of the psalms of David.
This Psalm is only about Jesus? Using an old form of argument called “Typology,” this passage refers to Jesus. The primary reference is, “To Solomon,” and the passage ends with “The end of the psalms of David.” This is one earthly king talking to his replacement and is about leadership, in private enterprise, in government, and in civic groups. The role of king includes, but is not limited to, being a rudder (a governor is a type of rudder) for the people. Leaders are to bring justice to the oppressed. Leaders in private enterprise, in government, and in civic groups are to defend the oppressed among the people, save the children of the poor, and crush their oppressors. They are to rescue the poor when they cry out, and the oppressed with none to help. They are to show pity on the needy and save the lives of the poor.
Some point to the king’s sword. The Shema, Jesus’ Great Commandment is, “Here Israel, the NAME is Almighty, the NAME is One. Love God with all our hearts, all our animate being, and with all of our measure.” How do we love God? How do we love someone who already literally already has everything? We guard and keep what is his, in particular what is made in his image. That is each other, friend and foe. Any attack on any living person, no matter how deserving, and no matter how defended, is an attack upon the image of God in that person.
It is only then that God will look at our fancy liturgies, in Greek and Latin, with our fine songs. It is only then that we can focus on the final cause of all creation, and that God will look upon the sacrifices of our lives. It is only then, God will see our Lebanon and our myrrh.