· Vatican City ·

The Epiphany of the Lord

Attraction, Indifference and Repulsion

 Attraction, Indifference and Repulsion  ING-001
05 January 2024

The visit of the Magi signifies that the gift of intimacy with God is not reserved only for the Jews, but for all nations. The universality of Jesus was already suggested in Abraham when God promised His blessing upon him and his descendants and added, “All the nations of the earth shall find blessing in you” (Gn 12:3) The same promise was foreshadowed in the Magi and finally was proclaimed explicitly by Paul, when he stated, “Gentiles are coheirs (and) members of the same body (of Christ)” (Eph 3:6). This week’s Gospel reading gives us an opportunity to meditate on the various responses to the coming of Jesus; we have three: the Magi, the Chief Priests and Scribes, and Herod.

The Magi did not hesitate to face the natural difficulties of travel and made the long journey to Jerusalem. They were intrigued by their studies and observations and were drawn by an attraction. They saw and they came, “We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Mt 2:2). We are reminded of a similar attraction felt by the first disciples who came in contact with Jesus and wished to know where he resided and his response was, “Come and see” (Jn 1:39). A similar attraction is evoked by Benedict for prospective seekers when he wrote in his Rule, “What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life” (RB Prol. 19-20). The exemplary response of the Magi is both natural and ideal.

Next, we have the response of the Chief Priests and Scribes. When asked where the Messiah is to be born, they did not hesitate but responded, “In Bethlehem of Judea” and immediately cited Micah and Samuel. Yet, they were completely indifferent; the powerful mind never made connection with the heart for it was choked by thorns (Mt 13:7). Knowing what we ought to do does not always translate to doing what we ought.

Lastly, Herod responded with aggression and manipulation. The news of the birth of the Messiah reached Herod’s heart, but his heart was filled with darkness. He lied and manipulated others with the intention to eliminate the child, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage” (Mt 2:8). Herod’s narcissism fuelled his hostility and paranoia. Besides being responsible for the slaughter of the innocents of Bethlehem, the historian Josephus recounted that Herod killed his wife, Mariamne I, her mother, and three of his own sons. The narcissist perceives himself as a victim and everyone else as enemies.

At the epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus to the world, there are three responses: attraction, indifference, and repulsion, corresponding respectively to the Magi, the Chief Priests and Scribes, and Herod. Upon deeper reflection, we recognise that when Jesus comes to us in our lives, we do not consistently respond well. There is a mixture of the Herod, the Scribes, and the Magi in each of us. When we are indifferent, beg the Lord for eyes that see and a heart that feels. When aggression arises, beg for mercy and peace. When we are able to embrace Jesus, then let us praise God with dancing and music! (Ps 149:3).

*Abbot of St. Martin Abbey Lacey, Washington

By Fr Marion Nguyen, osb *