The Word to the Wise

View the readings for this Sunday.

Sunday, Jan. 3, 2020, Feast of the Epiphany
Is 60:1-6
Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Eph 3:2-3A, 5-6
Mt 2:1-12

By Marc Massery

Two kings: one murderous, one salvific; several preoccupied chief priests and scribes; and three philosophers from the East called "Magi" feature prominently in the Gospel reading this weekend.

To refresh your memory, Wise Men from the East follow a star to Jerusalem, believing it indicates the birth of the King of the Jews. The chief priests and scribes tell these Magi that the Savior would come from Bethlehem, so they go there keeping in mind that King Herod wants to hear if they find Him. Herod, of course, doesn't tell the Wise Men that he secretly wants to kill Christ. When the Magi find Jesus in a manger, they worship Him and present Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. A dream reveals to them the truth about King Herod, so as admirers of Jesus, they avoid Herod by going home another way.

King Herod, the chief priests and scribes, and the Magi represent three basic reactions we can have to Christ. Herod, for one, believed Christ's presence would infringe too much upon his life, so he treated Jesus as an opponent and sought to destroy Him. The chief priests and scribes did not react with vehemence like Herod but neither did they seek to worship the Child. At that time, the chief priests and scribes were obsessed with ritual and discussing the intricacies of the Law. Immersed in their own affairs, they were indifferent to Christ. The Wise Men, on the other hand, had devoted their lives to seeking the truth and following it. As a result, they meet their incarnate God face-to-face and worship Him joyfully.

Few of us are entirely a Herod, entirely a chief priest or scribe, or entirely one of the Wise Men. As Russian novelist Aleksander Solzhenitsyn said, "[T]he line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." We strive to be like the Magi. But often, we end up like the chief priests, following the rules but not allowing Christ and His truth to change us. At times, we might even find ourselves acting like Herod. In our selfishness, instead of conforming to God's will, we rebel and treat Christ as an enemy.

Whenever we seek the truth and let it lead us, no matter the cost, we follow in the footsteps of the Wise Men. As St. Faustina says in her Diary, "O truth, so often oppressed, you nearly always wear a crown of thorns!" (1482). The Wise Men did not let distance deter them. They did not let the King of the Jew's poverty prevent them from prostrating themselves on the floor of the manger. They did not let the plot of a murderous king overcome them. They sought the truth with courage and were rewarded with meeting Truth in the Flesh, the King of Kings, which is why we know them today as simply "the Wise Men."

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