The Wise Men come from «the East», a place that evokes for the Jews the homeland of astrology and other strange sciences. They’re pagans. They don’t know the Sacred Scriptures of Israel, but do know the language of the stars. They seek truth and set out to discover it. They let themselves by guided by mystery, they feel the need to «adore».
Their presence creates a disturbance throughout Jerusalem. The Wise Men have seen a new star shining, one that leads them to think that now has been born «the king of the Jews» and they come to «adore him». This king isn’t Augustus. Or Herod. «Where is he?» is their question.
Herod is «disturbed». This news produces in him no joy. It is he who is designated by Rome to be «king of the Jews». He needs to get rid of this newborn: where is this strange rival? The «high priests and the scribes» know the Scriptures and know that he should be born in Bethlehem, but they aren’t interested in this child, nor do they set out to adore him.
This is what Jesus encountered throughout his life: hostility and rejection from the representatives of the political powers, indifference and resistance from the religious leaders. Only those who seek God’s Reign and God’s justice will welcome him.
The Wise Men continue their long quest. Sometimes the star that is guiding them disappears, leaving them in uncertainty. Other times it shines forth again, filling them with «great joy». Finally they find the Child, and «falling to their knees, they adore him».
Later they put at his disposal the riches they brought and the most precious treasures they possess. This Child can count on them, since they recognize him as their King and Lord.
In its apparent ingenuity, this account sticks us with some decisive questions: Before whom do we bend our knees? What’s the name of the ‘god’ we adore in the depths of our heart? We call ourselves Christians, but do we go about adoring the Child of Bethlehem? Do we place at his feet our riches and our wellbeing? Are we ready to listen to his call to enter into God’s Reign and God’s justice?
In our lives there always is a star that guides us to Bethlehem.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf