How much like that our lives can be! There are times when we are trying to get something accomplished and we feel like we are going around and around in circles. We have the perception that we are not moving anywhere at all, when in reality we are learning and growing. It may not feel like we are accomplishing anything, though there are virtues being acquired or lessons being learned along the way. Life is a journey, but often it can feel like we are on a road to "God only knows" where.
Ah, but that is the point: God does know where we are and where we are going. And better still, He does provide a map. The map is the Bible, aided by our relationship with Him through prayer, which helps us to better understand who He is and where we are going. The important piece that some of us miss is that we need to learn to rely on Him rather than trying to muddle through on our own. We often have the mentality that we should pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, thinking that we are showing weakness if we ask for help. When we do that, we are indeed ‘flying around in circles.’
The Magi must have been very open to whatever possibilities lay before them as to who this baby king would be. They must have had strong faith in the goodness of this king whom they had yet to meet. Maybe it was not religious faith on the surface of their consciousness, but they were open to the deep stirrings in their hearts; open enough to follow those stirrings into the unknown desert and beyond, all for someone they had not yet met. I have always believed it was the stirring of the Holy Spirit deep within them to which they responded, willing to risk the elements and the dangers of such a trip. This was a lot more difficult than hopping an airplane and flying in circles, so to speak, until one reached a pre-arranged destination. They had no idea exactly where they were going until they got there.
The Magi were indeed wise men. They knew that this child was more than just a king. They somehow knew to worship and to present him with the great treasures they could give. But they also knew, because of trust they had in a dream, not to do what Herod had asked of them. They knew not to reveal the location of the family with the newborn baby king and so they left by another route, warning the family to flee as soon as they could as well. They trusted because they were learning to listen to the movements of the Spirit deep within their hearts.
We do not know what became of them, but there is no doubt that they returned home with more than they left with. They returned home having seen the Son of God. They learned whatever lessons the journey taught them, the greatest of which was to trust in the stirrings of their hearts which come from God. They learned to discern what was from God, (the star, the dream, the Baby), and what was not from God, (the promises of Herod that he wanted to worship the child). This is one of the most important lessons of the spiritual life. They did have the big epiphany of seeing the child and realizing He was the Son of God, the most incredible revelation of all for anyone to have. But they also learned to discern the series of epiphanies along the way of the journey. That is the true gift of the Feast of Epiphany.
We need help to truly realize we have had a message of love from the Lord. Without it, we would miss many of the little epiphanies that we need to recognize His presence or a bit of wisdom He is trying to impart to us. Like the Magi, we become wiser, following not a star, but following the Light of the World, the Lord Jesus Christ. We become wiser every time we rely on God and every time we trust in His Word. We become wiser every time we imitate Him; with every act of selflessness, every act of forgiveness, every act of humility, and every act of love. We become wiser every time we say yes to what God may be asking of us and every time we accept a gift of grace from Him. When we do this we truly begin to see Him everywhere, and like the Magi we know when we are seeing Jesus in the face of the poor, the lonely, the outcast, our brothers and sisters, our co-workers, friends, and neighbors. When we see Jesus face to face in others it is the best epiphany of all.
May we ask for the grace to recognize the signs that guide us on our journey through life! May we trust in the epiphanies which are given to us daily! May we learn how to discern which movements are from God and which are not, so that we may always move closer to the Lord! May we trust that the Lord is with us on the journey and that He is also the destination! And may we become wise like the Magi in knowing that when the road is long and dark, there will soon be the light of love to guide us! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of the newborn King, Jesus the Lord! Alleluia! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The first picture is from a greeting card depicting the Magi greeting the Holy Family and Child. The photos are mine. The first was taken in the desert of New Mexico near Santa Fe. The second is clearly not a star, but it is the moon over Baveno, in northern Italy. It was the closest photo I had of a heavenly body illuminating a town. The third photo was taken on the trail in Lost Maples Park in Texas.