Happy Epiphany! In the Gospel today we meet several characters. We meet Mary and her son, Jesus. We meet King Herod, and we meet the mysterious characters called Magi.
One of these groups we call “wise”. The Wise Men. Well good for them, but how about us? Do you want to be wise? Is being wise something you value, something you long for, something you want to receive or accomplish?
What would it mean to be wise? Do you know any wise persons, a man or woman of deep wisdom? Would you like to be like that?
It might be easier to think about this by looking at its opposite, a contrast of “not-wise”. Our Gospel provides us with one in the character of King Herod. Herod was crafty. He was devious. He was sneaky. But he was not wise. He was utterly ruthless. We know historically he killed many of the members of his own family to eliminate any possible threat to his power. He wanted to kill Jesus for the same reason. Herod was strong, he was powerful, he was feared, but he was not wise. Wisdom is a whole different kind of thing.
Let us turn now and look at the magi, the “Wise Men”. They were seekers. They were on a search for the new born King of the Jews. They seem rather naïve in their choice to go to King Herod and ask him for directions to the “newborn king of the Jews.” Apparently they were not politically adroit. Oh well.
What they were is discontent. They were not satisfied to simply stay at home and do the usual routine. They wanted something more, something better, something more fulfilling and satisfying. So they searched the heavens. They looked up from their daily routine and wished and dreamed and longed for something more. Something new. Something more inspiring and fulfilling.
They followed a star. Their gaze was on the heavens, not on the practical, day to day grind of the daily routine here below. They were literally star-struck.
Well, the star led them to Jesus. And they worshipped him. And for this they are forever known as WISE.
We also call them Kings. But even though they were men of power and prestige, they were wise enough to kneel and worship. Our Gospel says that “They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” Here they show their true wisdom. Unlike Herod, puffed-up and jealous of all his power and prestige, the Wise Men know how to worship. “They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” In this the Magi show how wise they really were. As Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Pope’s theologian, has written, “We are greatest when we kneel down and pray.” And I would add that we are wisest when we kneel down and pray.
On this Feast of the Epiphany the Wise Men give us a lesson in being wise. True wisdom is to seek Jesus and His way of living. And when you find Him, whether it be in Scripture, or the celebration of the Sacraments, or in service, or in other people, or the beauty of nature or of art, or in some other way, then to demonstrate true wisdom. Kneel down and pray. You will be truly wise.