Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.
What wondrous gifts for a babe!
Why did the magi give them to a child they did not know?
They gave them because one of the magi discovered in the humble stable, a new born king and offered the gold.
Another recognized a divine child come down from heaven and worshipped him with the sweet frankincense.
The third magi offered myrrh when he suddenly foresaw the child’s redemptive cross and glorious resurrection.
They had come from different parts of the world and afterwards, returned to their homelands to share the wonderous epiphanies they experienced.
Last year, on the feast of the Epiphany, we celebrated our Sr. Lydia’s 66th anniversary of religious profession; her gift to the church and the world. Sadly, we could not celebrate with her because of covid in the nursing home. Sister had contracted covid and never fully recovered. She was 90. That Christmas, I was inspired to send her a stuffed toy frog and to write a little legend about a coqui from her native Puerto Rico.
THE COQUI’S GIFT
A bright star blazed in the night sky while under the palm tree slept three wise kings with their camels. In the palm tree sat a little coqui frog keeping watch. Silently, he had listened to their words of wisdom and learned they were on their way to greet the new king!
“A king!” chirped the little coqui. “How I would love to see this new king.”
Quietly, he hopped down and nestled under the cloak of one the kings so he might travel with them to see this wonder himself.
For many days they traveled and with each night the star grew bigger and brighter. Finally, the star, in all its glory, stopped and glowed over a humble stable.
“How disappointing,” thought the coqui. “This can’t be right. This is no place for a king.”
Inside the home was a poor couple with a newborn babe. Generously, the couple welcomed the Three Kings, and the unbeknownst coqui, with such openness, love and warmth that you thought you entered heaven!
With great insight, the three kings said, “Truly, this babe must be the Son of God,” as they humbly bowed before the newborn king and they offered their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Sadly, the coqui had nothing to offer.
When nighttime fell, the three magi and the holy parents drowsed and dreamed dreams of the wonders of God’s love. The coqui hopped closer to look at the Holy Child. The babe’s little hand waved and beckoned him closer. The baby king wasn’t sleepy. Neither was the coqui.
Sitting on his little chest, the coqui felt a puff of the Holy Child’s breath. The pitter patter of the infant king’s heart set the beat and the coqui, filled with wonder and gratitude at being able to keep this heavenly newborn company, began to sing. He found his gift! The coqui sang loudly all through the night, and has done so every night since, singing, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
I imagine Sr. Lydia enjoyed this story because the Three Kings are a big deal in Puerto Rico and she loved coquis. Sr. Lydia died 3 weeks later. We rejoiced for her, for now she is in heaven singing her own song of wonder and gratitude to Jesus, the King of her heart.
What is the feast of Epiphany all about? Epiphany actually has three manifestations of the presence of God in our midst. The first being the Three Kings. The second is when John the Baptist recognized Jesus for who he truly is at his baptism in the Jordan when a voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matt 3:17 And the third Epiphany is at the Wedding Feast of Cana. Unfortunately, this beloved gospel reading only comes up once every three years. Fortunately, this is the year! In changing the water into wine at Cana, Jesus, himself, reveals his glory to the disciples and that of the Father’s abundant mercy and love for humankind. John 2:11
We can ask ourselves today:
Are we like the wise magi seeking Christ the King in our hearts?
Are we like Mary and Joseph welcoming the stranger?
Are we like John the Baptist, preparing the way that others might recognize Christ?
Do we hear the Father say to us, “You are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased?
Or are we like Jesus, using our God-given gifts to spread joy in the knowledge of God’s abundant love and mercy by our words and actions?
We need not be on some quest searching for something difficult to find. We have only to open our hearts to see evidence of God’s love surrounding us. Everywhere and everything has been touched by the grandeur of God’s animating power. Every moment of the day, whether it is something simple, like waking up in the morning, or difficult, like mourning the death of a child, is an occasion of God’s love and compassion.
Can we be an epiphany of God’s love for the world in our own time and place? Jesus believes we can, when he said, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, . . . that the world may know that you sent me, and that you love them, even as you love me. . . . Father, they are your gift to me.” John 17:21-22, 24
I’ll end with a
story about one of the sisters
I live with. She has dementia. Sister had always been a person with a heart of love. Now, she can’t hold a conversation, but is still intent on looking for ways to help others. At Mass, when she goes up to communion, she says, “Thank you” when the priest places the host in her hands. It is very touching that somehow, she recognizes the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist.
If the only gift we can offer in the presence of God is a simple, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” than that gift would be enough.