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The Ring of the Kings

January 7, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

January 7, 2018
Matthew 2:1-12
Fr. George Smiga

The stories in the bible have been the source of many Christian traditions and customs in countries throughout the world. That certainly is true of the story of the Magi we have just heard on the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany is a Greek word that means to make manifest, to make visible. What we celebrate today is how our God, by taking up a human nature, made his love visible to us in our human condition.

There is an Epiphany custom in Mexico that points us to the heart of this manifestation. On the Feast of the Epiphany, Mexican Christians bake a sweet bread that they call Rosca de Reyes which means “the ring of the Kings.” It is a bread that is baked in a circle to resemble the crowns that the Kings wore when they visited the Christ Child. On top of the bread they place candied fruits, cherries, and figs to represent the jewels of the crown. It is a beautiful bread that represents to us the glory of the Epiphany, the beauty of Christ becoming one of us to be our savior. But, there is another part to this bread. Baked inside of it is a small figurine of the child Jesus. This figurine is consciously hidden in the bread because Jesus had to hide from the plot of Herod who sought to destroy him. So, this Ring of the Kings points both to the glory of the Epiphany and to its danger. It reminds us that our human nature is a mixture of both beauty and grace together with struggle and pain—all of which Christ took up as he became one of us.

Now, when the Rosca de Reyes is eaten, the person who receives the piece that has the figurine within it is considered blessed, because he or she has found the Christ Child that has been hidden in the bread. Therefore, this custom invites us to ask, “Where is the Christ Child hidden in our world today?” Christ is certainly hidden in refugees and immigrants who are displaced from their homeland. We should not forget that there are more people in our world today displaced by war, poverty and persecution than in any other time in history. Listen to this amazing fact: One out of every 113 people on the earth is a displaced person. We are called to see Christ hidden within them. We should not to dismiss their plight, but finds ways to offer them safety and hope. We can to this by contributing to refugee organizations. But we can also to work politically to see that our immigration system is one that makes America a more welcoming place to those who flee persecution.

Christ is also hidden at places closer to home: in our families, among our friends. Who are those we know are hiding because they cannot believe that they are loved? Who is hiding because they are devastated by grief or afraid of the future? We are called to see Christ hidden in them and to reach out to them in support and love.

The Feast of the Epiphany points to the glory of our human nature and also its dangers. So, as we enjoy the magic of the Magi, who come to Jesus in royal robes and offer gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, we should also remember the Christ Child who is still hidden in our world. He is hidden in those who are persecuted, forgotten, and in need. It is when we find them and offer them our love and support, that the true glory of Christ’s light can shine in our world.

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