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Challenging us to be Wise

Epiphany of the Lord

In Scripture and Tradition, the figures of Magi are presented as key to understanding the mystery of the Christ Child, his birth and his future mission. They were called Magi – learned astrologers – who traveled far to discover the mystery brought by a dazzling heavenly light.

In my breviary, I saw a minute caricature of the Magi huddled together, each holding a gift close to his heart, and above them all, a star that seems to shelter them and protect them in their journey. This illustration is significant, because the life of the Magi will forever be transformed by that light that aroused their curious minds.

What made the Magi wise? These men were educated people in their time, given to the study of a difficult and exalted science. But the Magi were not described as intelligent kings – but better, wise. What made them wise?

First, they were wise, because they followed the inner impulse of their heart to discover the truth. Even the film “The Nativity Story” has made an excellent presentation of the inquisitive and adventurous nature of the Magi. In our time, many people think that they have become sophisticated with their learning. Their intelligence makes them understand patterns in the universe. But they do not seek to unearth the mystery underlying the natural. Focusing only on the physical, they discard the need to know God, grow in friendship with him and serve him.

The Magi were wise for following the light that dazzled them. And this light is the light of faith, having as its spring the Infant born in Bethlehem. Today, many people ignore, stifle and destroy the light of faith. Just imagine the many ways people in the West want to conceal the real meaning of Christmas by avoiding the mention of Jesus, the display of the Nativity scene and the joyful salutation “Merry Christmas!”

For countries like ours, where very Catholic images of the season are overtly displayed, Christmas too has become a self-serving pleasure-time that ignores the spirit of prayer, praise and self-giving. How many people think of this day as a family or personal opportunity to pray and celebrate the Eucharist?

The Magi were wise for following the light. But they were wiser for keeping the light burning in their hearts. After they have worshipped the true King, they departed in joy, following a different route. This route was not only physical but spiritual. A new direction, a new orientation of hearts and minds touched by the Lord. How striking it is to hear the readings of Masses after Christmas, calling us to abandon our old life of sin and live for God alone.

Let us allow the Magi to challenge us to follow the path of heavenly wisdom.