The Journey to Meet God
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim sj (The Freeman) - January 6, 2019 - 12:00am

Matthew’s story of the Magi serves as a preview of Jesus’ life.  Jesus will be rejected by many Jews as symbolized by Herod.  But He will be received by many Gentiles, symbolized by the Magi. 

 

The star in Matthew’s story of the Magi is a symbol of hope, not just hope for the Jews, but for Gentiles as well.  The star in Matthew’s story of the Magi is a symbol of Jesus.  It tells us that God loves us so much that God’s only Son was sent into the darkness of our world to save us.

In effect, the Magi are our representatives, and it is a hopeful thing to ponder on them and their pilgrimage. 

Consider first of all, the difficult journey they must have undertaken to come to this small village, an out-of-the-way place.  At that time they did not have any travel agency or tourist bureau, or electronic gadget.  They did not have internet to surf, or even road signs.  They did not even have paved roads and reliable maps.  They could not send telegrams or phone calls to make hotel reservations. 

They would encounter strange language and customs, not to mention dangers from bandits and accidents.  Long travel during that time was not easy to accomplish, and their willingness to make and complete the journey is an indication of the great importance they placed on it and their commitment to it.

Another thing characteristic of the Magi that emerges is their openness, their willingness to seek out what they do not yet fully understand, and to embrace it once it is discovered.

How easy for us to overlook God, who so frequently comes to us in such insignificant disguise: in the form of bread and wine or as a small and helpless babe.

Next, there were also costs associated with the journey.  Not merely the costs of the journey itself, though that must have been a very large sum, but also the most exotic and costliest gifts available, which they will offer to the new born king.

We might ask, “Why all the trouble to take the journey?”  The answer is as simple as it is profound: To see the Lord, to gaze upon the One who came to be the world’s hope.

It is important to consider the means that God chooses to make this manifestation of Himself.  He calls the Magi from within the midst of what was most familiar to them – their own profession.

Ancient astrologers should not be confused with those who carry the same name today, who are usually fortune-tellers.  The ancient astrologers were primitive astronomers searching the heavens for truth.  But that truth did not come to them merely through their own efforts.  It came through the prompting, leading, and protection of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus would later say, leads us into all truth.

Throughout history, God’s revelation has been a gradual process.  The Jews were chosen to keep alive the belief in the one true God and the hope for the promised Messiah. 

St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that a secret plan of God has been revealed to him.  He wanted to share this wonderful news with the Church at Ephesus.

Through Jesus, God has manifested himself to the Gentiles and they too can share in the promise of redemption.  Now all nations and all people are chosen by God to receive the Good News.

On the Feast of the Epiphany, it is good to recall the legend of the Fourth Wiseman.  His name was Artaban.  He was supposed to rendezvous with Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar. 

Artaban had prepared three special gifts for the newborn King, a priceless pearl, a magnificent ruby, and a large sapphire.

As Artaban was racing to meet the other three, he saw a man lying on the road dying of fever.   Artaban was a physician and he thought of stopping to help the dying man.  But it meant he would be late for the rendezvous and the three might leave without him.  He decided to stop and help the sick man. 

And sure enough, the three had left without him.  Now he had to buy his own provisions.  He had to sell his huge sapphire to buy his own provision for the journey.

When he arrived at Bethlehem, the three Wise men had gone home.  The Holy Family was gone.  And the soldiers of Herod were slaughtering the infants. 

A frantic mother met Artaban at one doorway, and pleaded with him to protect her baby. Artaban stood at the doorway with the ruby in his hand.  And when the soldiers came, he offered the ruby for them to spare the house.

For more than 30 years Artaban searched for the King, who was born in Bethlehem.  Then one day, he heard of a man from Galilee, who was to be nailed to the cross.  By this time Artaban was already old and ill from his untiring search, and from ministering to a colony of poor lepers. 

He thought to himself, “Maybe this Jesus is the King that I’ve been searching for. Perhaps this last jewel, the priceless pearl can buy his freedom.”  He started his long and tiring journey to Jerusalem. 

As he reached Jerusalem, a young girl fleeing from the pursuing soldiers met him.  The girl pleaded with him for help.  Her father had not been able to pay a large sum of money he borrowed and so was put in prison, and she is being sold as a slave. 

Artaban looked at the precious pearl, and when the soldiers arrived, he gave away the pearl in exchange for the freedom of the girl.

Artaban, downhearted and exhausted by the journey and toil, fell dying, when the sky darkened and a storm started brewing on that Good Friday. 

As he lay dying on the lap of the girl he had saved, he raised his eyes and was heard saying, “It is you my Lord, all these years I’ve searched for you.  Now, I have nothing more to give you.”

A voice from heaven broke out, “You have done enough – fed me when I was hungry, clothed me when I was naked, cared for me when I was sick.” 

Confused, Artaban then said, “It’s not true, Lord.  When did I see you hungry?  When did I see you naked?  When did I care for you when you were sick?” 

Then a voice said, “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”

Artaban died happy knowing that all his gifts had been received by the King he had been searching for.

If we really appreciate this wonderful mystery of God’s plan in the Epiphany, we will thank God every day for this tremendous gift, and watch for opportunities to manifest God’s presence in our lives by our words and especially by the way we live.

Matthew used the story of the Magi to illustrate the importance of recognizing and responding to God’s signs.  Even before leaving their own country the Magi were seekers, watching for the star that announced the birth of a new king of the Jews.  When they saw the star, they did not hesitate to start on a long and difficult journey.  They were humble enough to ask for help and, having found Jesus, they presented their precious gifts. 

We have here a pattern for discerning God’s action in our lives:

• Alertness to the presence of God and the way God might be moving us,

• A mind open to new possibilities,

• A willingness to seek help when in doubt,

• The generosity to make the necessary sacrifices in responding positively to God.

Let’s close with the “Prayer for Generosity” of St. Ignatius of Loyola:

“Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve You as You deserve;

To give and not to count the cost;

To fight and not to heed the wounds;

To toil and not to seek for rest;

To labor and not to ask for reward,

Except to know that I am doing Your will.”         

Amen.

JESUS
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