Today we celebrate a journey, the journey of three ancient astrologers. Three kings set out on a long journey to an unknown land in search of a child. As we remember these mysterious men paying their homage to the infant of Bethlehem, our thoughts go back not so much to the scene at the end of their journey; or even to the journey itself, but rather to the beginning.
What must it have been like for them? They discover a new star and trace its origin to the Jewish faith and the expectation of a messiah. They knew the Hebrew scriptures, so they were familiar with the prophecies of Isaiah which predicted the coming of the Messiah. They believed that He had come at last: somehow, they saw it in the star.
The magi knew that it was not with any kind of telescope – but rather with the profound eyes of faith and reason that it is possible to meet God. The magi decide: “We must go! We must follow the star.” So, they set out on a journey of faith in search of a God they did not know. We can almost imagine the reaction of their families and friends. The general consensus must have been: “They have lost their minds!” Why would anybody in their right mind leave everything behind; risk the dangers of the open road; pack up the best treasures they had, only to give them away; follow a mysterious light in the sky? Can’t you just hear them: “Look at those fools in pursuit of their impossible dream.”
But they had to go despite the length of the journey; despite the desert heat and the cold nights in the mountains; despite the dangers of wild animals and robbers. Perhaps along the way, they had second thoughts; but the star summoned them and guided them to continue on their journey until they walked through the gates of the city of Bethlehem, and knelt at a crib where they discovered a child – the Savior of the world.
They opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh – the gold of their love, the incense of their reverence, and the myrrh of their suffering on the journey – all precious gifts; but the greatest gift was the journey itself – their journey was the highest homage they could pay. The magi looked into the face of God and knew that they had found what they had been searching for.
Bringing the events of today’s Gospel to our own century, we are invited to see ourselves as part of the story; for we are fellow travelers with the magi – fellow pilgrims – on a quest for Jesus Christ. Like the magi, each one of us is involved in a journey – a journey of faith in the search for God. As Saint Pope John Paul II called it “A pilgrimage to the house of Our Father”. Each one of us is caught up in a search for God and struggles to be right with Him.
Our Gospel today, invites us not only to turn the pages of the Gospel back to Bethlehem but also to turn them forward to our time and place so that we, too, can be part of the picture. The story of three wise men must be our story. Each one of us like the three wise men is searching for God. The journey of the Magi is our journey. We are all fellow travelers on the same holy journey. Like the original wise men from the east, we too have our times of doubt and discouragement – when the journey seems too long and the road too rough and we are tempted to forget the journey and turn back.
Our journey of faith is never comfortable.
There are many difficulties that impede our personal quest for Christ;
but like the magi, we must be steadfast and strong in the conviction that
what lies at the end of the journey is well worth the price and effort of the journey.
On their journey, the magi were guided by a star. The light of the star was their source of strength and hope which pressed them forward on our journey. We too need guidance, not from a star, but the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit who scatters our darkness and reassures us along the way.
The magi were intelligent men. They read the signs of the times. They listened to the voice of the Sacred Scripture and endured the hardships and trials to make that journey to Bethlehem – 2021 years ago.
The magi are part of the Christmas story for one reason. They are the leaders in a long, unending procession of which you and I have a part. They sum up in themselves what our Christian vocation is about. This is the feast of the blessed journey of all pilgrims whose quest is union with Jesus Christ. With Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar, may we come one day to the end of our journey, discovering what they discovered, the loving embrace of the child of Bethlehem in the house of our Father!