- “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.”
I’ve always been fascinated with the reality that a number of magi (wise persons) from the East saw a star rising and followed it so that they could pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews. We don’t know whether these magi were Jews themselves or how many of them there were, or even whether all of them were men. What we do know is that these persons were able to discern the importance of the hour and acted on the knowledge that came from their discernment.
They traveled to meet the child, who would one day call Himself the Bread of Life, in a little town called Bethlehem, which literally means ‘House of Bread’. After they entered the house upon which the star had rested they saw the child with His mother Mary and paid Him homage and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It is something powerful to consider how people so far off knew that newborn King of the Jews had been born and traveled a great distance to pay Him homage and offer Him gifts, while Herod, working with the same knowledge as them, desired to kill the child who threatened his power, position, and prestige.
The unconventional message of the magi’s visit is this: The near proximity to light has no bearing upon the reception of light. In other words, God is always the same – He never changes, but what does change is how our heart receives Him.
A child who has holy parents and a saintly priest as a close brother can grow up to do great unrepentant evil, and a child who has the firstborn of Satan as his mother and father can grow up to be saint. The near proximity to light has no bearing upon the reception of light. In the same way, if I put an egg and a stick of butter in the same pot of boiling water, each of them will react differently to the condition around them. The egg will become hard and the butter will melt, not because the water has decided to do anything different to one than it did to the other, but, rather, because both of them simply reacted differently to the boiling water.
I know parents who struggle with this reality – how one of their children can be perfect in their eyes, while their other child is unruly for no reason. It could have been the case that if Herod lived to see Jesus come into His ministry, that he may have believed. He could have been the first Saint Paul. Who knows? All that each of us can be is who we are at that instant moment. And we are always going to react to the conditions around us to the best of our interested ability.
Jesus is the light of the world; He is the eastern star; He is the truth; He is the bread of life; and people will always react differently to those realities. There will always be people who love Him, hate Him, and are indifferent to Him, but there will also be people who are looking for Him as well. Even if they don’t know His name, like the magi didn’t – they will still be looking for the light and truth. Humanity has always and will always be in search of these things, and we as children of the Light are obligated to let our light shine so that they might see the light in us (Christ Jesus) and follow us to the source.
As you reflect upon the readings at Mass today, here are some questions for you to consider:
- Who am I in the near proximity to Jesus? Who am I when I feel as if I am distant from Him?
- What are those ways that you employ to physically and spiritually draw nearer to Jesus? Do you sit close to the altar at Mass? How often do you spend in Eucharistic Adoration? Do you sit in silent contemplation of Jesus in your prayer space at home? Do you see Jesus in others during the time you spend with them?
- Are you a convert to Christianity? Bear witness about how you too went in search of the Eastern Star.
O Lord, thou greatest and most true Light,
whence the light of the day doth spring!
which dost lighten every man that cometh into the world!
O thou Wisdom of the eternal Father,
Enlighten my mind,
that I may see only those things that please thee,
and may be blinded to all other things.
Grant that I may walk in thy ways,
and that nothing else may be light and pleasant.
John Bradford (1510-1555)
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.