Mystery of the Magi
(Epiphany: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-6; Matthew 2:1-12)
For a brief time, all Jerusalem was talking about mysterious foreigners who had arrived from the East, asking a strange question. Biblical Scholars of the day found the answer, and King Herod sent them on their way.
Who were they? How many? How did they recognize the star? What identified it with the birth of Jesus? How could it move in a southerly direction from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? Theories abound, some quite interesting.
But none of these things really matters. They can easily distract us from the essence of the text, the object of the Magi’s quest: Jesus.
It seems unlikely that St. Paul had ever heard of the Magi. But he makes the point of their story most effectively: “The mystery was made known to me by revelation... that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Thus is fulfilled the promise of Isaiah to Jerusalem: “Nations shall walk by your light.”
In late 1846, everyone in the diocese of Grenoble, and beyond, was talking about a mysterious Beautiful Lady who had arrived, it would seem, from heaven. Her objective was similar to that of the Epiphany star: to point the way (in this case, to point the way back) to the one whom she calls “my Son.”
The Wise Men “were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.” At La Salette, Maximin and Mélanie saw a different Madonna and Child, where Jesus is represented not as a babe in arms but as the crucified Savior. The universal salvation anticipated in the accounts of Jesus’ birth was accomplished on Calvary.
As we reflect on the Gospel story and on the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette, we look to the past. But both invite us to enter into the mystery of the present, and of the future as well.
The Church reminds of the Magi for a reason. We remember La Salette for a similar reason. Both hold the hope expressed in the refrain of today’s Psalm: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” Can we play a part in bringing that about?