Gospel: Mt 2:1-12
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. 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. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
(By Archbishop Joseph Harris)
We often hear persons referred to as wise. Normally when that happens we think of some older person, but occasionally we hear it said that someone is wise beyond their years. When that happens we think of some young person who has the gift of doing things correctly and prudently. All human beings are meant to grow in wisdom as they grow in age. Unfortunately that does not happen all the time and so we are left to ask in what does wisdom consist?
The Gospel reading given to us for this Solemnity of the Epiphany may give us the answer because even though this feast is popularly known as the Feast of the three Kings, the Gospel does not speak of Kings and it only speaks of wise men.
Why does the Gospel speak of wise men?
The answer to that question seems to rest in the different attitudes of these men from the East and Herod the King.
The men from the East saw in the Star the announcement of the birth of a great personage, someone whom it was worth spending time and energy to meet and to know, someone who would bring fulfilment to their lives. From their studies they knew that this person was the new born king of the Jews. The wise men set out from their homeland, following the star until it rested over the place where the child was and when they entered and saw the child, they gave the child gifts of their own treasures, gifts through which they acknowledged the divine kingship of the new born child. The Gospel also tells us that “on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” The wise men in their actions recognized that greatness was not achieved through power and wealth but was often manifested in the small and humble and in hearts which are attuned to God’s will.
King Herod and the Establishment of the day however was only interested in maintaining its own power. The gospel tells us that “When King Herod heard this, (the search of the Wise men) he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” In his mind, accustomed to intrigue, Herod had no intention of joining the search. He planned to use the wise men to accomplish his nefarious deeds. He would find out who and where the child was to destroy him. Instead of letting himself be caught up in the divine plan of manifesting to the world the Child Emmanuel, God-with-us who would walk this earth bringing divine blessings to us, he sought only to kill and destroy,
And therein lies the difference between the wise men and Herod, between wisdom and stupidity. The wise men could recognize greatness and render homage to greatness, Herod could only see his own vulnerability in spite of his earthly honour and seek to destroy anything which he perceived as a threat to himself.
This story we must apply to ourselves. What do we consider to be true wisdom? Is it academics or worldly competence, the ability to outsmart, or is it the quest for that person who alone can bring true fulfilment to our lives, that is God himself ? When we understand that the quest for God is the only thing to bring us true fulfilment, like the wise men we are willing to give time and energy to the quest, having a scale of priorities always understanding that the search for God is more important than all other searches.
We have models for the above in all the saints. St. Francis gave up all the riches of his merchant father to seek God and to find God in poverty and in nature. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, gave up the comfort of her convent to find God in the poor dying on the streets of Calcutta.
It is true that not all of us are called to these extraordinary vocations but all of us are called nonetheless to seek and find God, perhaps in spouses, in children, people with whom and for whom we may work and to offer God in them the treasure that we carry with us.
May all of us be successful in our quest for true wisdom!
All powerful and ever-loving God, we thank you for reminding us of what true wisdom consists. Give us the grace we pray to always seek true wisdom, confident that in finding you we will achieve the fulfilment we all seek. We ask this through the intercession of Mary our mother and Jesus your Son. Amen