From the Pastor – January 2, 2011

“And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” (Mt. 2:9-11)

Why were the “wise men” wise? Were they wise because they knew the movements of the stars in the sky? Were they wise because they understood the seasons of the year or the movements of nature? What made them wise?

The word for “wise men” is a Greek word that we transliterate as “magi.” The magi were interested in trying to understand the created world, but they searched for more.

The magi might have been smart because of all of their knowledge of the physical world, but wisdom is something different. It comes from God.
The magi’s search for the meaning of the star is ultimately a search for the source of wisdom. At the time of the magi, prophecies in the ancient near-eastern world foretold the coming of a universal king whose birth would be announced by a sign in the heavens. It’s clear from St. Matthew’s description that the magi viewed the star’s rising as a fulfillment of these prophecies.

And knowing about the coming of a universal king wasn’t enough for the magi; they were wise because they were willing to risk the dangers of a long journey to find him.

St. Matthew’s Gospel does not tell us precisely where the magi came from or how long their journey took. All we know is that they came from the East. A journey from the East toward Bethlehem can only lead through the desert. To get to Christ, the magi sacrificed their time, their fortune and possibly risked their lives. And when they finally arrived, they gave to Jesus more than gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They gave themselves, falling down before Jesus and giving him homage. St. Matthew tells us they were “overjoyed.”

The magi are examples for us to follow so that we might become the wise men and women of our own day. And we can also follow a star. It might not be one up in the sky, but it in the gentle red candlelight of the tabernacle lamp. It points to the presence of Christ in the tabernacle because the same Jesus who was held in Mary’s arms and laid in a manger is present to us in the tabernacle.

Our world can be a desert. It can leave us hungry, thirsty and exhausted. And we have to travel through the world’s desert to find the One who can give us food and water and rest. Because Jesus is the “bread of life,” the giver of the “living water,” and the one who “gives us rest.” Today, with the example of the magi, we should prepare ourselves for an encounter with Christ that is even greater than theirs. For the magi only encountered Jesus visually. But enter into Holy Communion with Him.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty