The Magi Sought Jesus — Epiphany of the Lord

The 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, and all Jerusalem with him.

Why was King Herod greatly troubled? Because he saw this rumored, newborn king as a threat to his power and rule. No one ever mistook King Herod himself for being the Messiah or the Christ. Herod was not descended from David (as it was prophesied the great king of the Jews would be) and King Herod was not a godly ruler. The Roman Senate had installed him as king of Jerusalem and Judea, and he ruled as a brutal tyrant. Herod imposed harsh taxes, killed large numbers of his political opponents, and executed members of his family as well, including several of his wives and sons. The Magi, these wise astronomers from the east, had rightly interpreted the signs of heaven, but they badly misjudged Herod’s intentions. They had come, naturally enough, to Jerusalem to find the newborn King, but King Herod had no such son, so Herod hatched a wicked plan to murder any innocent child reputed to be the Christ.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet  [Micah]: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

When King Herod was greatly troubled, all of Jerusalem was troubled with him because, knowing Herod, they knew the Magis’ message would likely lead to death and violence. Why did the Jewish religious leaders plainly-reveal to Herod where the Messiah might be born? They had reason to fear Herod, yet they could have demurred in Herod’s presence at responding to his inquiry. We must never tell lies, but we need not tell everything we know to everyone who asks us; for example, you don’t tell a killer where to find his next victim. The religious leaders could have replied to Herod, “Well, there are various disagreeing opinions about where the Christ will be born,” and that would have been true. The Jewish rabbis enjoyed theological debates about every question – and there was no need to let Herod know their best and most-accepted answer. Or, they could have replied, “Moses does not clearly tell us where the Christ will be born,” and that also could have been true – the prophet Micah provides that particular answer. Instead, the religious leaders tell Herod exactly where to look: “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they said to him. Without even realizing it, this was the Jewish religious leaders’ first betrayal, first denial, first rejection of Jesus Christ on earth.

Then King Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out [and found the fulfillment of their hearts’ hopes.]

If the Magi were “overjoyed at seeing the star,” imagine how they felt upon entering the house and finding Jesus with his mother. The Magi had traveled hundreds of miles to seek out the newborn king, to give him their precious gifts, and to show him their homage. But did any of Jerusalem’s priests or scribes travel the five miles to Bethlehem to do the same? Did any of them seek out the Magi or the Holy Family to privately warm them that they were in grave danger? Apparently not, for it required dreams from Heaven to warn the Holy Family and the Magi to flee from Herod. It is as if the religious leaders didn’t believe the Messiah, their Christ, would or could be born for them; like they did not believe that God was alive and active in their present day. Despite their vast religious knowledge, these men lacked faith. You and I profess to be Catholic Christians, and that is important. We have come to Mass today, and that is very well. But the Jewish leaders show us the danger of our faith being just a theory, an idea we hold without it prompting our full response to God.

The Magi sought out Jesus. Are we seeking a daily encounter with Christ? The Magi gave Jesus their precious gifts. Are we offering our Lord our time, talents, and treasures generously? The Magi prostrated themselves before Jesus and showed him their homage. Are we loving Jesus as merely an idea, or as the most important person in our lives? The beginning of this new year is a good time to take stock of ourselves and make resolutions to follow Christ better. Do not be afraid, for it will be the fulfillment of your heart’s hopes. If you are willing, he will lead and guide you on your journey.

Lord of wonder, Lord of light,
Lord with royal beauty bright,
Heaven leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: