Living the Gospel – January 6, 2019

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The Three Kings

The story of the Three Kings has been a part of our sacred scriptures since antiquity. Its history offers some insights into our spiritual origins. The gospel according to Matthew implies that the Kings were astrologers, possibly from Babylon, and I wondered; how was the importance of this child recognized by these Kings but not by the Holy Family’s own people? Was it only about the Star? Or did they also bring a message about Jesus’ future? What was the meaning of these special gifts?

I quickly turned to John McKenzie’s, S.J.’s Dictionary of the Bible for insight and read that myrrh was a valuable spice; gold was highly valued throughout the ancient world, and frankincense was the purest and most expensive form of incense. In Jesus’ time, the vestments of the temple’s high priest were heavy with gold thread, and the altar of incense in the temple was entirely overlaid with gold (Ex28:5, ff., Ex30:1, ff., 1K6:20.) And when the priest entered the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people at the “mercy seat” of the gold covered Ark of the Covenant, he entered with fear and trembling. He believed that he was in the actual presence of God. There was a powerful belief that “no one can see God and live,” and that the billows of smoke from the incense could “protect him from God’s gaze” (ref. McKenzie, p.386.) Gold, spice, and incense – the gifts brought to the infant Jesus…well, we can only guess how the Kings knew who He was.

We face many questions. What do we bring to God? What do we bring as gifts? Do we enter His presence with awe and adoration? Do we recognize Him in weary travelers like Mary and Joseph or homeless and hungry people who are far from home and their loved ones? The list goes on.

Let us bring the best we have as we celebrate this Holy Feast.

Dorothy A. Hathway, CSJA