From the Pastor – January 6, 2019

“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?  Perhaps.  Were they wise because they understood the seasons of the year or the mysteries of nature?  Maybe.  Or were they wise because they knew how to navigate according to a star.  All of that might be true.  But the underlying truth is that they were wise because they were searching for God. Their desire for Him meant that they could detect his coming appearance on earth in the appearance of a bright star.  Most likely influenced by prophecies in the ancient near-eastern world that foretold the coming of a universal king whose birth would be announced by a sign in the heavens, they viewed the star’s rising as a fulfillment of these prophecies.

But knowing about the coming of a universal king wasn’t enough for the wise men.  They were wise because they wanted to encounter that universal king. They wanted to worship him.  And the wise men were willing to undergo the sacrifice and dangers of a long journey to do so.

St. Matthew’s Gospel does not tell us precisely where they came from or how long their journey took. All we know is that they came from the East.  And a journey to Bethlehem from the East can only mean that they came through the desert.  To get to Christ, they sacrificed their time, their fortune and they 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.  And it was all worth it!  St. Matthew tells us they were “overjoyed.”

We look to the wise men as 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’s there in the gentle candlelight of the tabernacle lamp.  It points to the presence of Christ because the same Jesus who was held in Mary’s arms and laid in a manger is present to us in the tabernacle.

Sometimes we have to recognize that our world is still a desert.  It can leave us hungry and thirsty and exhausted.  And we have to travel through it 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 help of the example of the wise men, we can prepare ourselves for an encounter with Christ that is even greater than that of the wise men.  For they encountered Him visually with their eyes.  But we receive Him inside of ourselves through Holy Communion.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty