January 2, 2011


They were overjoyed at seeing the star. Ė Mt. 2: 10

The Magi intrigue us because they seem so exotic: we donít know who they were, where they came from exactly (somewhere in the East), nor why they got so excited about the significance of a particular star. Unlike the shepherds in the nativity story who had been filled in on what was happening by the angel, the Magi were searchers who didnít have all the answers. Perhaps it is that characteristic that helps us to identify with them more.

This fascination has led to many legends growing up around them over the centuries. According to one, initially, the three entered the cave of the nativity one at a time. Melchior (who was an old man), found an old man his age with whom he was quickly at home. They spoke together of memory & gratitude. The middle-aged Balthazar encountered a middle-age teacher, & they talked passionately of leadership & responsibility. When young Gaspar entered, he met a young prophet, & they spoke words of reform & promise.

When they had all got outside, the three of them took their gifts & went back in together. There was nobody there but a twelve day old infant. Later they understood & so should we: the Savior speaks to every stage of life. The old hear the call to integrity & wisdom. The middle-aged hear the call to responsibility, & the young hear the call to identity & intimacy.

Like the Magi, we have difficulty with the large questions of life. We too are harassed by modern Herods who seek to destroy our children with consumerism, pornography, greed, hedonism in place of heart, sensation for substance & celebrity for character. And we worry & wonder about family life, crime, illness, war, recession, terrorism & death. Yes, we too would like heavenly messengers & heavenly assurances such as the shepherds got, but we experience neither.

Clearly, itís the Magi, the struggling band across a hot desert with only a vision & hope to guide them that resonate with us. Weíll stick with them, for the bottom line is this: they didnít have all the answers & neither do we.

The best part of their story comes at the end. At last they found what they were looking for, & so do we if we are not too dense to grasp the significance of the babe in the manger. He makes all the difference between light & darkness, between hope & despair so far as life is concerned. If we are blessed enough to find what the Magi did, we would be overjoyed too. AMEN!