There’s a certain darkness to the Epiphany, an aspect that’s easily overlooked.
Through eyes of faith, we tend to gaze upon this feast as an unvarnished triumph – a manifestation of good news, even great news: the birth of the world’s salvation. But it’s worth noting that not everyone received the Magi’s message with joy.
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
This verse in Sunday’s gospel caught my eye, I suppose, because of the way the new year, 2018, has dawned for three good friends – faithful, faith-filled men all.
A second, reconnecting with me after relocating to another city early last year, broke the news that his eldest son had lost his battle with severe depression and taken his own life in October.
The third man learned earlier this week that a major client had decided “to go in another direction,” and so he faces the daunting prospect of rebuilding his practice – just a couple of years before he’d been contemplating retirement.
Absent these soul-crushing events, all three would eagerly have aligned their spiritual compasses with the Magi – seekers, exhibiting no small measure of courage in their heartfelt effort to follow the star, and grow ever closer to the Lord.
But is there wisdom in doing so?
Herod personifies the worldly way after all. His is the legacy of treachery, power, ruthlessness and violence. What good can come of it?
As Kingdom people, we are called to envision another way…even though at times it might bear little resemblance to unvarnished triumph. Christ is a sign of contradiction, we are told. And many good people, holy people, will in fact be called to embrace the very path that the Christ-child would eventually follow – the path of suffering, self-abnegation, surrender.
If there’s wisdom in this path, perhaps it lies in this: the dawning awareness that even in our trials, we have Christ as companion (and ultimate victor) beckoning us on.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.