Sunday, Jan. 5, is the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Mass readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13; Ephesians 3:2-3A, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12.

Today we commemorate the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus Christ as King to the Gentiles. The Liturgy of the Word is full of prophecies of the homage of great men from far-off nations, coming on camels, bearing gifts. Jerusalem, says Isaiah, will be resplendent: “Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.” The Psalmist foretells that “all kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.” These prophecies were immensely important to the ancient world. They held within them the truth that behind all the happenings of history, God was working all things to his eternal purpose.

Truly, Christ was born into a world heavy with a sense of anticipation. Creation itself announces his birth.

Magi, studying the stars, notice something out of the natural order and realize that the time is at hand and that the prophecies are being fulfilled. They journey to Jerusalem, searching for the newborn King of the Jews to do him homage.

Herod’s suspicions are immediately aroused. He smells a rival — a rival and a very real threat, for he is not a full-blooded Jew and was only appointed ruler by the Romans. The chief priests and scribes confirm his worst fears: A Jewish child born to be king, in fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, is in Bethlehem. There is only one solution for the murderous ruler: This child must be eliminated.

This story illustrates three possible responses to the coming of Christ. And, within them, we may recognize ourselves, even in subtle ways.

First of all, there is Herod, who finds Jesus to be an obstacle and an inconvenience to his ambitions. We have not committed murder, but have we ever set Jesus or the truths of his teaching aside in favor of our plans? 

On a wider level, where in society today do we see a stifling of truth in favor of personal desire? A justification of sin and a smothering of Christianity? Perhaps it is time for us to give greater voice to the word of God, which the culture would like to crucify because it is a threat to all of its false kingdoms.

Secondly, there are the Jewish scholars, summoned by Herod. This seems perplexing — these religious men knew full well the prophecies. They knew where to find the baby, so long awaited. And yet their reaction is one of indifference. Comfortable in their position, they have no need of a king. Have we grown too relaxed in our faith? Are we striving for holiness, for union with the God of the universe who comes to us continuously? Or are we quite comfortable in our mediocrity? Do we take our salvation for granted? It is time to be shaken out of our complacency.

Finally, there are the Magi. Here is where we hope to find ourselves — ready to leave everything in search of the pearl of great price, laying down the gift of our lives in humility before him, casting down our paper crowns and bowing our knees and our heads before the Child who was born to die that we might live. There are no plans, no power, no possessions that can touch the splendor of our God, which “has now been revealed” to the entire world. Let us adore him.

Claire Dwyer is editor of SpiritualDirection.com and

coordinates adult faith formation at her parish in Phoenix,

 where she lives with her husband and their six children.