We have become so familiar with the crib scene and the figures representing the three Kings, we have overlooked the whole situation. Perhaps it is because we learn that the Star the “wise men” first saw and followed was manifested at the birth of Jesus. We therefore put them at the crib. When we next see these three adorers outside the Israelite community, they are already in the town of Bethlehem. That is a big jump.
Naturally the Magi would go to the current king to find out about his successor. And they received the information they sought. Given what the Magi found out from Herod, and what Scripture tells us, Jesus would have been between 18 months and 2 years old, and living in a house with his parents in Bethlehem. The Magi must have been in preparation and on the road for almost 2 years after they saw the star.
Now as bright as that star was, it was most likely not seen as clearly in the bright sun of the day. Focusing on that star so as not to lose their way could not have been easy. The Magi were very well educated in astronomy. So instruments and eyepieces were carried along with food, water, servants, clothing, provisions for their animals as well as the gifts they planned to present to the newborn King. It must have been quite an entourage.
When the Magi came to house where they found Jesus, the toddler, and his parents, they had just come from a journey of at least one and a half years, or 18 months, 72 weeks, 540 overnights. I would say that is a big commitment already. I cannot remember waiting that long for anything except my final vows. The fact the Magi made the journey is the biggest and most valuable gift of all.
When a friend comes to see me and apologizes because she has not brought a gift, I quickly remind her that the gift of her presence is already given. I think that was the fourth gift and the best one, not only for Jesus, and Mary and Joseph, but also for you and me. We non-Jews scrambled for a year and a half in the persons of the Magi in order to be able to pay our respects to the newborn king. Moreover, to the persons of Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar plus who knows how many in their entourage, I say “Thank you. It is a joy to praise God in companionship with you.”
Having to wait for something is not easy. Yet, there are times when waiting is not what we need to do. To be active in reaching toward the goal we have keeps the “star” in sight. We can do so much to grow in our spiritual life. Just waiting for it to happen puts all the work on others, (even the Holy Spirit!) If we do not tend to our spiritual reading, contemplative prayer, thoughtful consideration of others and vigilant concern for justice and the poor, we will be waiting a very long time and the goal may never be reached.
Focus on the “ Star” and hitch a ride with Caspar Melchior or Balthazar. They knew how to do it. They know about an enduring journey: Call on them.
Remember: Your Journey is your Gift.
Peace and Joy,
Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF
Oldenburg Franciscan Center