Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
January 3, 2016
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
The Epiphany of the Lord

“They were overjoyed at seeing the star.” Matthew 2:10

The Gospel of the Epiphany presents us with two very different types of people.  On the one hand there is Herod.  He is cold, calculating, jealous, and mean spirited.  When he speaks, his words go beyond irony.   They are deceitful.    “When you have found him,” he tells the magi, “bring me word, that I may go and do him homage” (Matthew 2:8).    When we read a few verses later in the Gospel of St. Matthew about the massacre of the infant boys, we learn just how reprehensible Herod’s motives are.

On the other hand, we have the magi.  They were learned men, non-Jews from a distant land, who had read the prophecies of the Jewish scriptures and were seeking “the newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).    For them the star that they had seen “at its rising” (Matthew 2:2) served as the lead indicator that the king had been born.   They are honest men, who know how to read the signs.   And judging from their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they come prepared to offer their best.   Nothing is accidental with them.   Everything is deliberate because all creation manifests the wisdom of God and His work.

We find here two radically different people.   What light do they shed on our actions?    Herod should make us reflect on the corruption of the world.   It is the world that seeks the death of the Messiah.   Herod is consumed with only one thing—himself.   He wants what he wants, and he will do anything to get it.   He is the scoundrel of the age, the self-seeking charlatan, the egotistical materialist, for whom people are only pawns in a game that he seeks to win.    All of this sounds harsh, but human history is filled with this type.    We need look no farther than ourselves to see these tendencies at times revealed.    We may not be as much of a caricature as Herod, but a good examination of conscience will reveal in us the selfishness that forms the seed for actions.

And there are the magi.   They seek the Lord.   They recognize the signs.   They are innocent enough to allow a star to guide them and because they are guileless they outfox even Herod.    If God can take on human flesh in the womb of the virgin of Nazareth, He can do anything.  The magi know this, and thus they bring “the newborn king of the Jews” gifts that reflect what He will be:  gold because He is a king, frankincense because He is God, and myrrh because His death will reveal His true glory and the ultimate victory of God. 

The magi are the best in us who seek God.    The magi are those who lay themselves aside and take up a quest to find the meaning of life.   And unlike the self-centered, they know that this meaning is found not in themselves but in the other.   They have opened their eyes to a star.   And when they depart, they return home taking “another way” (Matthew 2:12), not because they fear Herod but because this visit to the Christ Child has changed them.   In fact, they fear nothing because they have changed.  They are true to themselves because the star of Bethlehem has shown them its true light who is Christ the Lord.

May the light of the Bethlehem star guide us away from Herod and lead us, as it did the Magi, to the true light of Christ our Lord.