Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 2:1-12 “…magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled…” See all the readings here…http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010613.cfm
Today we hear the familiar story about the magi arriving in Jerusalem from the east and inquiring about the newborn King that the Jewish people have been awaiting. Interestingly, the magi, though they were Gentiles, recognized the sign of His birth, and earnestly set out in search of Him, though the Jewish leaders (pharisees and scribes) did not seem to be aware that anything was happening. The Gospel account tells of Herod being troubled, as he was the king and clearly did not welcome any competion. We see how he tries to thwart the plan of God and the prophecies that foretold Christ’s coming. He gathers together the Jewish leaders to find out where the King would be born, and learns that the birth of the King is to be in Bethlehem of Judea. Then he secretly calls the magi into his company, and asks about the timing of this star, which we now know was probably a real astronomical event, or possibly a series of events. He then tells them to go to Bethlehem (which he learned from the pharisees and the scribes) and to search for the child. Herod is so narcissistic that he is trying to supress the plan of God, the inevitable rise of this newborn King of the Jews, the centuries-old hope of the people, and he actually thinks he will be successful. An amazing facet of this account, to me, is how God worked through the machinations and guile of Herod to reveal the location of the Christ child to the magi, and to bring about His plans, even as Herod was trying to stop it. We also see how it was government oppression that even brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth, as they had to go in order to be counted in the census of Ceasar Augustus.
This all is a great comfort to me, as I look at the news of the day, at the political situations around the world, at the corruption and guile of many in power. Fear not! Be at peace, is what God tell me through this Gospel account. Our lot is to listen, to obey, to persevere in doing God’s good work, and know that His purposes will not – CANNOT – be thwarted. I see the humility, obedience, and silence of Joseph, Mary, and the child Jesus, and see the frantic response of Herod, who with his power had access to information that others did not, and could on a whim even order the deaths of all the male infants in Bethlehem. He is described in such stark contrast to the humble Holy family, to the magi, and to the shepherds who all were open and waiting, watching for the Messiah.
Faith, it seems, does not consist in simply believing. Herod certainly believed. Faith consists in an openness and a trusting of God and His goodness and providential care. Faith, as a gift from God, cannot be received without humility. If we are too “kingly” then we will be threatened and go to any length to stop His reign. Let us, then, strive to cultivate humility, and therefore, faith, trust, and openness to God alone. Then we will be overjoyed at seeing His star – His guiding hand in our lives – and we gladly open our treasures and offer them to Him, and we will return by a different way – as the magi did – since we will never be the same again!