The Magi (three wise men) reminds people that their quest for God never ends. And that they should always seek to deepen their knowledge of God, further their awareness of him, and strengthen their faith in him, according to Father Kendrick Forbes during his sermon on the first Sunday of the new year.
“Wise men still seek him,” said Forbes, priest at St. Paul the Apostolic Catholic Church.
During his sermon on the day of The Feast of the Epiphany, that commemorates principally the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and Jesus Christ’s physical manifestation to the Gentiles, Forbes said the journey of the Magi is one of those biblical stories where just about every bit of detail contains some spiritual nugget.
“Matthew begins with these words: When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, and the gospels explicitly mentions two groups of visitors to the infant Jesus – Luke mentions shepherds; Matthew mentions the Magi. And shepherds were Jewish outsiders; they were among the most despised of the people. The Magi, Matthew tells us, were from the east; they too were outsiders. But there is a lesson being pressed by the evangelist – the wealthy learned Magi of Matthew’s gospel complement the poor, local shepherds of Luke’s gospel. And together they revealed that salvation is offered to all people. Together they revealed the truth, that no one has a monopoly on God’s grace.”
Forbes said the story of the Magi offers insight that people should never forget – that God’s love is unconditional; his mercy is wide, and as such, they should not set parameters around God, because he is never limited by people’s prejudices.
When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, the priest said they asked one of the great spiritual questions: Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
Forbes said the Magi knew who they were looking for, but they did not know where to find him. And that truth be told, it can be that way for people today, at times.
And that the Magi would discover Christ off the beaten path, in a simple house, in a small town, among ordinary people, in the most ordinary of places.
Today he says Christ can be found in the child hungering for a warm meal, or a warm house. And that he may be found among those who are not near the centers of power, the elderly who have been forgotten, the sick who have been neglected, and the weary and battered who feel alone and misunderstood.
“We find him [Christ] anywhere. He could be anyone. The question the Magi posed, is one we should ponder personally. Where is Christ? Can he be found in my heart? Are his teachings manifested in my actions? Can others see something of his light shining through me?”
During his sermon Forbes said when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, they said to Herod, that they saw the Christ child’s star at its rising and came to do him homage.
“Now there has been all kinds of speculations as to what the star guiding the Magi was. What we do know is that the Magi’s response to the star was to undertake a long, dangerous journey. They allowed the divine light to guide them – guide them to the place where the newborn king was to be found.”
He reminded worshipers at Sunday Mass that through someone or something, that God seeks to draw his people. And that he puts a star in their sky, whether the “star” be the ache in their souls for more, or the gentle rumbling of the spirit from within. Forbes said the Magi followed their star. He questioned worshipers whether they recognized theirs. And that as disciples of Christ, they are called to be seekers, but are also called to be stars.
In every age, he said people are needed to shine like the Bethlehem star to point the way to Christ. And in today’s world, he said it is surely no different.
“We have just closed out a turbulent year that has exposed many vulnerabilities. The gap between those who have and those who have not appears to have widened. We see and hear on social media how incivility has sunken to new depths. We have seen how the spreading of misinformation can lead to negative consequences. On the local front, there have been several incidences that are painful reminders that the mistreatment of women, that physical abuse are issues we must confront as a people. Shining like Bethlehem star means standing for truth and integrity. It means the spreading of the good news by example more than words. It means providing a model of virtue to others,” said Forbes.
The priest said everyone is a seeker, but by the same token are also called to be stars. And that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, they did not find a city rejoicing at the birth of a king – what they found instead was a suspicious king, a group of individuals surrounding him, plotting with him. Forbes said the Magi sought Christ in order to worship him. Herod and others sought him in order to destroy him because they felt threatened by the new king. They assumed that he had come to take away their power, when he came to take away man’s sins. “They saw him as a rival, as a threat,” said Forbes. “God is not a threat to our peace. He is not a threat to our joy, our happiness. He is the cause of it. He is the source of it.”
Forbes said when the Magi saw the child, they prostrated themselves and did him homage and that he has always been struck by the response of the Magi to the infant and wondered what they saw in the child.
He said they needed the eyes of faith to see in a helpless infant, the almighty word of God.
“They needed faith to see the king of kings and Lord of all the world in a baby born in the most simple of circumstances. They needed the eyes of faith.”
He said that people also need to see with the eyes of faith. “How often does God ask us to see the extraordinary in the ordinary? To see his presence and actions at work in what seems so simple. We are challenged to see his presence and grace at work in water that cleanses in the Sacrament of Baptism, bread and wine in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, to see his face in each other.”
At the Eucharistic table Forbes said people ought to ask for the grace to see with the eyes of faith.
He reminded parishoners that the Magi, after finding Christ and breaking open their gifts, depart by another route as the old way of traveling could no longer work. Forbes said they needed to follow a different path. The lesson to be learnt from the Magi, he said, is that faith has consequences.
“The way of faith entails reversals – a turning around. It requires conversion.”
And that when Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem in search for the child, he says to them to search diligently for the child.
“Now make no mistake, Herod was a violent, brutal man, but he gave one good piece of spiritual advice – search diligently for Christ. Let us seek Christ. Let us search for him. Let us long for him. If we open our eyes and hearts, we will encounter him. And when we do so, we will experience joy,” said Forbes.
As they observed The Feast of the Epiphany which pre-dates Christmas, Forbes said when the Magi visited the Christ child, that a veil was drawn back, allowing people to understand more, the ministry and mission of Christ. And the revelation that Jesus Christ came for all people.
“None were to be excluded from the grace of God that he would bring. No one is outside the love of God,” said Forbes.
As a result, every year on the feast day, Catholics are asked to contemplate the story of the Magi. But he said it’s one of those biblical stories that certain assumptions can be made about – assumptions that are not necessarily based on the gospel.
“We assume the men visited the manger – but Matthew is very clear that they found the Baby Jesus in a house in Bethlehem. We also assume that there were only three of them – Matthew mentions three gifts – but not three men. We call them wise men … kings. Matthew does not designate them as such. He calls them Magi. And so, there is a lot about these men that we don’t know. What we do know is that the men did what we are called to do – to seek Christ, to honor him.”
The priest said the Magi went out of their way to find Christ and honor him making the long, dangerous journey from the east in order to encounter Christ, and that at Mass, today’s people encounter Christ in his word proclaimed in the Eucharist, but that so many are unwilling to make the time and the sacrifice to encounter him.
Forbes said the Magi reminds people that their quest for God never ends, and that they should always seek to deepen their knowledge of God, further their awareness of him, and strengthen their faith in him.
“The journey of the Magi is one of those biblical stories where just about every bit of detail contains some spiritual nugget,” said Forbes.