Sunday, January 02, 2022

Mildness, Meekness & the Magi

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 71(72):1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

Picture: cc Radio Alfa

My dear friends, I know this probably sounds silly, but do you get the impression that the virus is starting to see the light? What do I mean? Well, if it’s true that Omicron is milder than the earlier versions, then perhaps COVID-19 is finally realising that if it keeps insisting on killing its hosts, it will end up wiping itself out too. So instead of racing towards mutually assured destruction, it’s now choosing a gentler, friendlier, more enlightened path. It’s learning to live and let live.

Silly as it may sound, it looks like the virus is undergoing a conversion, much like the one to which we are called, as we celebrate a third Epiphany in the shadow of the pandemic. As you know, epiphany means showing. At Christmas, the light of God’s glory shows itself to all nations as a helpless little baby, lying in a manger. And our readings invite us to lift up our eyes and look, to ponder carefully this mystery, unknown to… past generations, but revealed now to us. To look, to ponder, so that, like the virus, we too may be changed.

To help us, the gospel presents a sharp contrast between two paths: that of Herod, and that of the Magi. We know well that Herod’s is the path of violence. He ends up sacrificing many innocent children. In contrast, the Magi walk the path of meekness. Not the weakness of doormats, but the gentleness of true followers and witnesses of Christ. For example, they refuse to let themselves be manipulated by Herod, but choose to return home by a different way.

And there’s a reason for the Magi’s meekness, as well as for the violence of Herod. The Magi’s meekness is prompted by their receptivity. When they learn about the coming of a king in a faraway land, they are thrilled. They clear their schedules, disrupt their routines, and set out into the unknown. They are willing to receive directions, even from strangers. In contrast, when Herod learns about Christ’s birth, he is resistant. He feels so threatened, that he even makes plans to kill the baby.

Also, when we ponder the receptivity of the Magi, and the resistance of Herod, we are led to a third contrast. For if the Magi are receptive, isn’t it because they are seekers of Truth? Isn’t this why they search the stars, and bravely go wherever their search leads them? On the other hand, what Herod values is not Truth, but control. It doesn’t matter to him whether or not Jesus is sent by God. Herod will not allow anything to jeopardise his own grip on power and control.

Control leading to resistance and violence, versus Truth leading to receptivity and meekness. These are the two paths our readings show us, calling us to reject the first, and to walk in the second. To become Truth-seekers, instead of control-freaks, receptive disciples, instead of resistant rebels. To stop doing violence… to ourselves, to others, and to our planet. To follow the God, who lies in a manger, and hangs on a Cross. 

Sisters and brothers, if even a deadly disease can mellow, what can we do to become more meek like Christ today?

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