Gospel Lectio Divina - The Epiphany of the Lord - January 2, 2022

Gospel Lectio Divina - The Epiphany of the Lord - January 2, 2022

By David Kilby

READ
Mt 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

MEDITATE

 

Where is the newborn king of the Jews?

Already Jesus is being called a king. Before he does anything significant in his earthly life, people are already searching for him. This points to the divine mystery of his existence. He is not just a king, but the Word of God who has existed before the world began. He is the one the prophets spoke of and needs no introduction, because people have been waiting for his arrival for centuries. When the magi came to Herod, their mission was to honor this king. 

While the Gospel says he is the newborn king of the Jews, the implication is that he is the king of all nations. The Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday is “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you”, “All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him” and “Justice shall flower in his days”. In the First Reading, we read “Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance” (Isaiah 60:3).

Have these words come to pass? Two thousand years later, Christianity has spread to the ends of the earth. Faith in Christ has built civilizations. Court systems that uphold human dignity are firmly established in many nations. While many may deny it, Christianity is the cornerstone of Western civilization. One does not have to be Christian to see that Christianity is the best foundation upon which to build a society. When churches are built, schools, hospitals, thriving villages, universities and virtuous citizens soon follow. This is what history shows us. Yet, times have changed. We live in a time when historically Christian nations no longer put Christ first. They have abandoned the foundation upon which they were built. While the words of the prophets have been fulfilled in many ways, the day when all nations shall adore Christ is yet to come. It’s our mission to live and pray for that day.

We saw his star at its rising

What was this star? It’s more than a subplot of the Gospel. It’s external evidence, meaning something outside the Bible, that proves the Bible is true. In the documentary, The Star of Bethlehem, Frederick Larson shows how Jupiter–the king planet–and Regulus–the king star aligned three times in the constellation Leo, the lion–as in the Lion of Judah–around the time of Jesus’ birth. Behind Leo rose Virgo, which represented the Virgin Mary, “clothed in” the sun with the moon underneath, just as described in Revelation 12. What is more, at Jesus’ conception, the Annunciation, Venus–the “mother planet”--aligned with Jupiter to symbolize the Virgin being pregnant with a king. Jupiter then changed direction, or to the naked eye, “stopped”-- on December 25, 2 B.C.  So, as Larson describes it, in September of 2 B.C., Jupiter crowned Regulus in the constellation Leo, Virgo then rose clothed in the sun and moon, a new moon–by the way, which marked the Jewish new year, also known as Rosh Hashanah. Nine months later, Jupiter and Venus came together to form the brightest star ever seen. This star stopped over Bethlehem on December 25, 2 B.C.

Scripture directs us to look to the heavens for signs. Isaiah 40:26 states: “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.

In Psalm 19:1-2 we read, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.”

Jesus himself said “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars” (Luke 21:25). We can choose to believe whatever we’d like, but God is giving us all the evidence we need. A leap of faith is always necessary, but God has done his part in showing his love for us. We just need to know where to look.

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled

King Herod did not wish to honor Jesus. He didn’t care about the signs and wonders, except that they indicated there is a king who will challenge his throne. He was jealous of this new king and saw him as a threat, but Jesus is a threat to more than just King Herod. He is a threat to anyone who wishes to challenge God’s power. Progressive, New Age preachers may want to soften the Gospel story and say Jesus is not a threat, that he is just coming to offer a message of mercy and forgiveness, and as a result the Gospel message is lost. Make no mistake, the coming of Jesus threatens everything we want for our lives. He is calling us to give up everything and follow him. We may look down upon King Herod for not wanting to give up his throne. And indeed, the killing of the Holy Innocents was horrible. But how much better am I, really? If I want power, fame, money, or anything this world has to offer, and I’m not willing to give it up to follow Jesus, how much better am I than King Herod? We may not see ourselves as King Herod, but if not maybe we need to take a closer look. What is my reaction when I hear about Jesus coming to save the world? Does his existence and mission interrupt my plans to be who I want to be? If so, perhaps this is why I struggle to believe. It’s not too hard to believe he is God incarnate who has come to save the world, unless of course this truth messes up my plans for my life. Then I can come up with excuses and deviant plans to explain him away, kind of like what King Herod did. 

PRAY

Lord Jesus,

Let your coming to earth be a shining light in my life like it was for the magi, not a threat to my plans like it was for King Herod. I need the Christmas season every year because I need to re-invite you into my life at least that often. Give me the courage to open my heart to you. Give me the reasons to rejoice in the fact that you came to earth to save me from myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

LISTEN

Christmas is more than a day. The Church aims to convey that by spreading the story out over a month with the Advent and Christmas seasons. Historically, the magi didn’t reach Jesus until a few years after his birth. In other words, the message of Christmas should live on in our lives. Every year, if we are listening, we can learn something new about God’s love for us. Now that the hustle and bustle of shopping, visiting friends and relatives and what not is mostly over, let’s take some time to listen for God in the quiet of winter. 

 

Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.

 

Glory to the Father The Son and The Holy Spirit