Here below is a summary of my homily for the Epiphany of the Lord, 2018.
Today we celebrate the day when the wise men of the East seek the Child. Today they are an example for us when we come into the presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We noticed that found the one whom they were seeking, they were filled with joy, and prostrated themselves before him and gave him homage. What does that mean? In the Holy Scriptures, people would prostrate themselves upon entering God’s presence. The wise men, by this gesture, recognize Jesus as God. Not content with this gesture of adoration, they give him gifts that reveal the true identity of this child.
The gold reveals that this child is a King, since only the rich people, like kings and rulers could afford this gold. The wise men were looking for the King of the Jews, and yet they found the King of the universe.
The incense reveals that this child is divine, which means that he is God. In the ancient world, incense was burned as an offering in the worship of a god.
The last gift, myrrh, was a special spice that was used in medicines and ointments. It could also be added to the wine and taken as a drink. Thirty-three years later, we read that Jesus would also be offered myrrh mixed with wine while hanging on the cross. Myrrh would also be used to prepare his body before placing it in the grave. This gift refers to the fact that Jesus would be the Saviour of the world with his death and burial and his resurrection from the dead.
These gifts do not only reveal things about Jesus. They also help us see how we can imitate these wise men by giving gifts to Jesus. In fact, we can give more precious gifts than gold, frankincense and myrrh. The greater gifts that God really wants are the spiritual gifts that we can offer. Gold, incense and myrrh are symbols of how we can offer ourselves to God.
In the Bible, gold can symbolize wisdom. How can I give wisdom to God? He is the source of wisdom. However, when we obey the Lord’s commands, we are wise. We know that the ways of the Lord lead to true fulfillment, happiness and eternal life. Our obedience to the Lord is like gold in his sight.
The prayer in the Bible is symbolized by the smoke of incense that burns and rises to the Lord. We read in the Psalms, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you.” The Lord wants to be with us when we raise our hearts and minds to him in prayer. In prayer, this conversation with God where God speaks to us first in the Holy Scriptures and we meditate on his Word and respond to him, we offer him a gift of our mind and heart.
We remember that the myrrh symbolizes the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, where he poured out his life for us. When we sacrifice ourselves, our time, our energies, our resources for the good of others, like Jesus, we offer God the gift of our life. Saint Paul writes: “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Therefore, today we imitate the wise men in the Bible, kneeling before Jesus truly present under the appearances of bread and wine. We can add to this adoration, the spiritual gifts of our heart: golden obedience to his commandments, the fragrance of sincere prayer, and our sacrificial offering of a life lived for God and the good of our neighbour.