In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
It might be correct to call the Epiphany the feast of Taking Down the Walls since the feast shows that the coming of Christ was meant not only for the people of Israel (represented by the shepherds) but also for non-Jews (represented by the Magi).
In God’s kingdom, the separation between Jew and Gentile, Israelite and foreigner was done away with in order to form a new people of God who would transcend all differences and all barriers. St. Paul spelled this out explicitly in his letter to the Galatians (chapter 3, verse 28).
What is the relevance of this feast for us today? I think the challenge this feast offers is the call to stop dividing up the world into Jews or Gentiles, the “saved” or the “not-saved,” those whom God loves and whom God does not, or into any other kind of split and antagonism such as religion, social class, race, political party or gender. As this new year begins, the feast of the Epiphany reassures us that all are called and all are welcome in the presence of the Lord.
—Fr. Frank Majka, S.J., a Wisconsin Jesuit, is engaged in pastoral ministry at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee.
Life-giving God, you revealed your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star. Lead us to your glory in heaven by the light of faith. May we discover your grace and hope in all we accomplish this new year of faith. All praise to you, now and always. Amen.
—The Jesuit prayer team