January 6, 2013 – Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
The story of the Magi — the Three Kings — is one of the most endearing and most familiar to all Catholics. Because they brought gifts, it is also the focus of many stewardship commentaries. In addition, it may be one of the more misunderstood stories around the birth of Jesus.
Epiphany is a word with Greek origins that means “manifestation.” We celebrate Epiphany because it represents the realization (related to the appearance and visit of the Magi to the Christ child) that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
The visit of the Magi to the child Jesus is reported only in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew never states that there were three — that is an assumption which has been made based upon the three gifts. Traditional representations of their visit place them in the stable where Jesus was born. Matthew, on the other hand, makes reference to the Magi visiting the Holy Family in their house — which would imply they may have come to Nazareth, not to Bethlehem.
In fact, it does not matter how we interpret the specifics of the visit of these men “from the East.” The stewardship aspects of this story present us a real view of what is expected of us as stewards. The visitors from the East made valuable gifts to the Holy Family — gifts with a value which may have represented a sacrifice on their part. Furthermore, the gifts were given at a time when the Holy Family had a need — they were preparing to flee to Egypt. The generosity of the Magi may have been the instrument which allowed them to do that. Being from a distant land, these “wise men” acknowledge that Christ is the Savior of all lands and all peoples. Near the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that nations will be judged not just on how they treat Him, but on how they treat His brothers and sisters in need — a definite call to stewardship.