Scripture readings – Sunday, January 2nd

Feast of the Epiphany





Matthew’s story of the Magi’s visit (2:1-12) is a wonderful allegory for spiritual pilgrimage.  It also offers a sharp contrast between true and false pilgrimage.

First, let’s look at the good guys.  As they began their journey, the magi had no idea where they would end up and what exactly they would find.  They only knew to follow the Star and to go where ever it led.   The journey in itself was sufficient. Finding the glory of God fully manifested at the end of that journey, they did all that any genuine seekers can do – fall down in awe and offer the best that they had.

Now, for the bad guy.  Herod also wanted to know what was at the end of that spiritual pilgrimage – but he didn’t want to take the journey.  His hope was to find a shortcut, via information given to him by the unsuspecting magi.  And his intention, upon finding the glory of God, was to snuff it out utterly. 

Light follows light and darkness seeks even greater darkness.  Those who do not embrace the value of the journey in and of itself can never see the glory at the end.  It’s in the journeying that we change and that we find what is best in ourselves and that point of intersection between ourselves and God.

As I move closer to my 50th birthday and conclude one of the more difficult years in my life (yet not the most difficult, not by a long-shot) I pray that I may be open to that same Spirit who worked within the hearts of the magi.   At this time I feel as if I am singing a song but am one note behind the rest of the band. Just enough to make me feel that I cannot quite capture the tune.  And so I walk in the direction in which the Star leads, through the deserts and the darkness, trusting – and sometimes (often) not trusting – that the glory of God lay ahead. – in fact, that glory is all around me.

I have gifts much more precious than gold, frankincense and myrrh – most especially, my wife, my children, my family and friends, my health, my ministry.  It is an honor to travel in such company as the magi.

Yet Herod is out there – better said, Herod is in here – too.  There is much about Church teaching concerning original sin that befuddles me, but this much I see – there is a part of me that, like Herod, seeks the short cut and sees the glory of God as something to be feared.  I do not think it is the greater part.  I pray that it is not the greater part.

Come, Lord Jesus!  Maranatha!  And a very blessed Epiphany to all my fellow magi.  Together, in the Spirit, we can keep Herod at bay.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

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