In Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we heard the familiar story of the three magi who traveled from faraway lands in the East to pay homage to the infant Jesus. Only Matthew records this story, and even from him, we get only a little information.
We don’t really know who the magi were. They may have been fortunetellers, or soothsayers, astrologers who predicted the future based on what they saw in the stars, or astronomers, who tried to make scientific sense of what they saw in the stars. Legends tell us that Melchior was from Persia, what we now call Iran, Caspar was from India, and Balthazar was from Babylon or Ethiopia. Whatever their origins, they went to great lengths to seek out Jesus and honor him with costly gifts.
I like to regard the magi as the very first strands of the web of grace, the beginning of that sacred connection woven by the Holy Spirit that binds us to one another, parish to parish, Christian to Christian, across not only our diocese but also the entire world. Their story reminds us that, regardless of what country we come from or how far we have traveled to find Jesus, we are all part of a vast network with God at its center.
As I near the end of my time as your bishop, I find particular comfort and hope in the web of grace, because I know that the work we have done together and the relationships we have formed will continue to sustain all of us as we find new ways to strengthen the church for the challenges of the 21st century. Like the magi, I will soon take a different road home, but I am confident that God’s grace will go with me as it will go with all of you into a new chapter of your mission and ministry.
Between now and early April, we will have time to say farewell to one another and to welcome Bishop Sean into the Diocese of Western New York. But for now, as I celebrate the season of Epiphany, I do so with thanks for the light and life that you have brought to my ministry and with anticipation for the gifts we still have to share with each other.
Yours in Christ,
+R. William Franklin