Read: Saint Matthew 2, v1-12
Sometimes it is striking how different people have in faith. Of course it is always difficult to compare, but it is like a Swiss who lives in the mountains. A tourist passes by and says: “How lucky you are to live here, with such a magnificent view”. It is quite possible that the Swiss will answer, “Oh, we get used to it”. Conversely, a German can enjoy the North Sea with its wide beach, while there are many Dutch people who rarely or never go to the beach. So it is in the Church. Sometimes people discover the Catholic faith and are happy and thankful to have found it. Then they look around and notice countless Catholics who have inherited the faith from home, but live uninterested in it.
Today we have a great example. Wise Men from the East. At that time, traveling was not as comfortable as it is now. Many people have fantasized about these wise men and their journey to Bethlehem in Judah. How many sages will it be? They have three gifts, so they must be three wise. The Psalms speak of Kings of Tarshish bringing gifts. Thus, in our parlance, the wise change into three kings. But maybe it was two, plus some companions, maybe more, but more important than their number and status is their inner attitude.
What must we leave behind to seek Christ? They leave their country and their surroundings behind, have to incur high costs for a long journey; Why? What are they looking for? The Gospel doesn't tell us much about their background, but the line of the story reminds us of Eastern astronomers who saw a sign in the stars, which to them was a sign of a divine king. For in the image of that time, the starry sky is God's own domain. So if God wants to let us know something, He can never do it better than through a star.
Such a simple faith, believing that God wants you to know something, believing that he can do that to the stars, such a simple faith is enough for God to guide them. They are believers of the best kind. Scientists in their time, sages; for them, faith and science were not yet competitors, as they seem to be for some scientists in our time.
In all cultures and in all faiths this is in any case the same: If you want to find God, you will have to let go of something and start looking. Royal sages who leave everything behind to find the true wisdom of the true king. By their example they ask us what we have paid for the faith, whether we should have had difficulty in finding Christ.
This also brings us to another remarkable fact. What is the purpose of their journey? They set out to find the King of the Jews, that people who call themselves God's People, whose king is God. But what do they want with that king? Will they serve him, will they ask for a wise word like Solomon, will they proclaim him king of all lands? Or are they perhaps seeking healing, confirmation of their hopes, an answer to their doubts, a solace in this sad and volatile existence? What are they looking for in this king?
It simply says, "We have seen his star in the east, and have come to pay him homage." No other purpose than to pay Him their homage. They come to ask nothing, need nothing for themselves, so come to pay Him their tribute. Isn't that also the core of our coming together in the church? Still, if you ask why do you go to church, many will answer: “Because I find some peace there, because there I gain inner strength to continue, because the celebration, with the readings and the songs inspire me” . Or: “I go to church because it means something to me”. In one way or another, most people attend church for themselves. These sages do not go for themselves, they go to pay Him their tribute.
This shows on what level these people lived, it is not they who are central, it is not about their need or idea or wish, but this newborn King is completely in the center. Him they worship, falling on their knees, worshiping Him they offer Him their gifts. What are the gifts we bring to church? The Church Balance campaign will start again in January, a welcome gift, but also a gift that will benefit us together. We get some of those gifts back in the celebrations, in a warm and bright church. These sages from the East go further than we do in selflessness and altruism.
But then they receive nothing? Could it be that they leave poorer than they came? From a material point of view yes, but spiritually they return home with the greatest wealth. Did they first need a star from heaven to understand God's signs? Now they have seen God's greatest sign, God's Son in flesh and blood, they have seen Him, they have heard Him, and their hands have touched Him. But they were eyes and ears and hands of faith. They were already further along than Tomas who had been through so much. They see a child, but believe that He is the King of the Jews.
How do they go back? Along another way. But it is no longer a star that guides them. The starry sky remains a reliable signpost on the earth's roads, but they gain a new experience. God entered their world and they have direct contact with God from that moment on. “Warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another road.”
What do the wise teach us? At a time when we have everything, after all we belong to the richest countries, many people don't need the church because they think you come there for comfort in sadness, for strength in weakness, for inspiration to persevere. But if you have enough inspiration, enough strength, enough luck, then follow the example of the wise. They come to pay Him their homage. And then receive what He wants to give you, a direct encounter with God. Amen.
RevFr Ed Bakker