The Wise Men brought gifts to God incarnate.
Do I give the best of the time, talents, and
treasure entrusted to me… or just what is left over
after sacrificing at the altars of the world?
The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world (CCC 528). Who were the wise men who came to find the “new king of the Jews”? They were men of the East (Matt 2:1), learned in reading the stars and ancient prophecy. They were not among God’s chosen people. They were gentiles. They came to find the one the heavens announced (Matt 2:2).
And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: (Gen 1:14)
In the Book of Numbers, the wicked King Balak attempted to use Balaam, a Magi from the East, to curse Israel. What came from him instead was a blessing. Three times, he tried to curse them and three times Balaam blessed Israel. Just so, when Magi from the East came to see the newborn King of the Jews, wicked King Herod attempted to use them to destroy the new king. Instead the Magi paid Him homage. Balaam saw what was to come…
I see him, though not now;
I observe him, though not near:
A star shall advance from Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise from Israel, (Num 24:17)
We count them as three (though the Bible isn’t specific on their numbers) because we associate each with a gift… gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These foreign visitors were foretold in the Old Testament…
May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute,
the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts.
May all kings bow before him,
all nations serve him (Psalm 72:10-11).
Caravans of camels shall cover you,
dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
All from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and heralding the praises of the Lord (Is 60:6).
They were determined to find the messiah and pay Him homage. Logically, their search led them to Jerusalem… where else to find a king of the Jews? Prophecy led them further…
“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel” (Matt 2:6).
On the one hand, the Magi may have expected a priest-king like Jesus’s ancestor, David. On the other, they may have expected the sovereignty of God Himself in the Christ-child. In either case, their gifts are appropriate. Gold acknowledges the kingship of Christ. Frankincense may be seen as an offering to the high priest or even to God Himself. Myrrh is a burial perfume recognizing His mortality as a man. In these three gifts, we can see a revelation of Jesus as Son of God, Son of Man, King, Prophet, and Priest.
“When the king of heaven was born, the heavens knew that he was God because they immediately sent forth a star; the sea knew him because it allowed him to walk upon it; the earth knew him because it trembled when he died; the sun knew him because it hid the rays of its light.” — St Gregory the Great
The Magi were rewarded for their diligence and gave their gifts and paid homage to Jesus as a child. I also have gifts to offer Jesus that recognize His sovereignty over my life: my time, talent, and treasure. They are very like the gifts of the Magi.
My treasure is my gold. All that I have in this world is a gift from God. It is given in love for me and with purpose. I have needs that must be met… and these needs are not unique to me. As I meet my own needs, I learn how to meet the needs of others. Through the treasure entrusted to me, may I be a conduit of the blessings of God to others. As He has blessed me, so may I bless others. The accumulation of wealth takes years of preparation, toil, and sacrifice. Through the years of strife may I not see wealth as the goal of my life but rather as a means for glorifying God.
Where my treasure is so will my heart be (Matt 6:21). May I store up treasures in Heaven through the love I give to God and man (Matt 6:19-20). No man may serve two masters, he will hate one and despise the other (Matt 6:24). May I allow God to be master of my life. May I see in my worldly resources a tool for serving Him and my neighbor. Like the Magi, may I make an offering of the treasure entrusted to me to our Lord for His purpose.
My talent is an effervescing frankincense. I have talents that are universal (eating, bathing, clothing, reading, et al) and talents that are unique to me (writing, speaking, music, art, et al). I use these talents to make the world around me more beautiful. They allow me to interact with the world in my own unique way. In the celebration of my talents, I add to the symphony of life. I pray they rise up to Heaven to give glory to God as frankincense rises from His altars in worship.
What makes frankincense different from simple smoke? The talent used to make it beautiful and the heart of the one who toils for love of God.
My time is myrrh. From the first moments of life, my death is inevitable. It may come soon and suddenly or wait for a distant future… but it will not wait forever. Time is the one commodity we can’t store up or measure. We can’t save a moment to be used at a later date. We can’t earn more time by working harder… it may be just the opposite. The only thing we can do with time is to spend it wisely as it comes and remember it as it goes.
May I make a tithe of my time in giving moments of each day for prayer and reflection, days of each week in oblation and worship, and seasons of each year devoted to penance and celebration. May I pray without ceasing as I go through my days in service to God in the workplace, home, and Church. In living the hours of each day as a prayer of offering to God may He multiply them into an eternity of life in His everlasting Kingdom.
There is one more gift I share in common with the Magi—myself. Our Lord came into our world to offer Himself as a ransom for sin so that we might join Him forever in Heaven. He came in His unfathomable love for us to do what we could not do for ourselves. The Magi sought Him out to give themselves in homage to Him. Their first gift to Him was them. I can do no less than to seek Him all the days of my life and offer all I have and all I am in service to Him and His Kingdom. It is an offering of love… an offering of self.
Although I must live in this world, I am a sojourner on my way to Heaven. May I use the time, talent, and treasure entrusted to me for the glory of God’s Kingdom and not waste them in pursuit of things that will not satisfy… things that will fade away. Lord, help me fill my days with opportunities to show love to you and all who are made in your image and likeness. Like the Magi, may I give to you from my first fruits and not simply from the scraps remaining at the end of my worldly pursuits.
The Wise Men from the East who, guided by the star, made their way to the manger of Bethlehem, are only the beginning of a great procession, which winds throughout history. — Pope Benedict XVI