Obey or Disobey?

Reflection for the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our January 1st newsletter


Magi (2)This Sunday we are celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. The celebration has different meanings among Christians. The word ‘epiphany’ comes from the Greek word ‘epiphaneia,’ meaning ‘manifestation or appearance.’ In the Roman church it is generally considered the feast that celebrates the visit of the magi. It is often described as the revelation of the incarnation of when God became man. In Eastern Christianity, it is associated with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, a time to acclaim to the world that the Messiah has come. The feast of the Epiphany is one of the oldest Christian feast days we celebrate. The feast is filled with rituals, songs and pageants. We all remember the song “We three kings of Orient are bearing gifts, we travel afar.” I remember when I was about 9 years old, I was selected to play one of the kings in the Christmas pageant. I was so excited I could not wait to run home and tell my mom.

Over the years, I have heard the story preached, I have read theological interpretations on its meaning, the significance of the gifts, and who the magi were. As I was reflecting on this Gospel something struck me. Verses 7 & 8 say: “Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” So, the Magi were given a direct order by the King. Herod told them to return and let him know where this child was. Later on, Matthew says: “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.” I wonder what the magi were thinking? They had just been witness and part of a cosmic event. They may not have understood the significance but they knew something remarkable happened. They were ordered to return to Herod. Not to do so would be a violation of a direct decree by the governor; in effect they would be breaking the law. They were risking arrest and, in all probability, death.

In my work, I am often involved in nonviolent civil disobedience. I am often challenged by folks who say that we should obey the laws of our country. I wonder what would have happened if the Magi felt that way and returned to Herod instead of following their hearts?

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

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Published in: on January 2, 2018 at 9:27 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I appreciate your insights, especially the final one about following God over government. However, I wish earlier that you had said God became human rather than man.

    Thank you, Maureen >

  2. Reblogged this on Reflections on Scripture.


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