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Wise men, women still seek him: On Jan. 6 we celebrate feast of the three kings arriving in Bethlehem to see Jesus

By Regis J. Flaherty | Contributor
Sunday, January 1, 2012

Every Epiphany we hear the story of the “magi” or “wise men” (see Mt 2:1-12). The Gospel writer tells us little about their origin and perhaps that is how it should be. We then can see ourselves in these seekers and they teach us how to find the greatest gift to mankind — Jesus, the Lord and Savior.

The magi were following a star. There is only one way to see a star and that is to look up. Wise men and women are able to look beyond the many distractions that surround them and see the heavens. The Psalmist writes; “I raise my eyes. … From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Ps 121:1-2).

When we pray we raise our hearts to God. Committed, ongoing communication with God is necessary for those who desire to find and follow Jesus.

Tradition tells us that the magi probably came from Persia, modern day Iran. It’s 972 miles from Tehran to Bethlehem. That’s quite a journey today. Imagine what that trek through deserts and mountain ranges involved in the first century.

The magi had to persevere to reach their goal. How often were they tempted to give up on the journey? How often are we tempted to quit our efforts to follow Jesus or to veer off the path that he has set before us? As Scripture teaches, we are to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14).

Asking for directions

How many jokes do you know about the reluctance of men to ask for directions? The wise men had no such problem.

Apparently they had lost sight of the star that guided them, so they stopped to ask for direction. Their humility and desire to be on the right path overcame any reluctance on their part. We too can learn from their example.

In our culture it’s easy to lose sight of the demands of our Catholic faith. Our society no longer espouses the Christian ethic. It’s vital then that we make sure that we seek godly direction for our lives.

Do we read good Catholic literature to balance what we are given by the secular media? There are many up-building programs on Catholic radio and television. Do we take advantage of them? Do we cultivate godly friendships with other committed Catholics?

Let’s be prudent, seeking continually to deepen our understanding of the faith so that we know the right path for our lives.

All good gifts

The perseverance of the magi paid off. They found the home of the infant Jesus.

“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” (Mt 2: 11-12). Imagine if we were there. What joy and awe we would have felt! Like the magi we would certainly want to give gifts to the infant king.

The magi point us to appropriate gifts.

They brought gold. What is the “gold” in our lives? It is our time, talent and treasure. Give God your time in prayer and service and do so generously. Give him your talent to further his kingdom; give him a return on his investment in you. Use your material blessing in service to the Savior by tithing and almsgiving. It’s a sign of both your trust in and love for him.

The wise men also gave to Jesus frankincense, which, when burned, gives forth a pleasing aroma. The writer of the Book of Revelation tells us that in heaven “the smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones [go] up before God (8:3-4).

Prayer then is our gift of frankincense, especially prayers of praise and thanksgiving. Scripture tells us that all creation gives God praise. It is right and just that we join that chorus.

The final gift is myrrh, an ointment for the deceased. How can we give the gift of myrrh to God? We do so when we are willing take up the cross in our lives and join our sufferings with those of Christ. We give the gift of myrrh when we make the words of the Our Father our own: “Thy will be done.” We die to self so to live for him.

Yes, wise men and women still seek Jesus. We don’t need a star to guide us. He dwells in us and in those we meet. He is present in his Scriptures. He is most powerfully present in the Eucharist. This Epiphany he is inviting us to come to him again. Let each of us respond with a generous heart.