Adoring the Newborn King with the Magi
“God in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength.”
This beautiful message which begins the official Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that God wants to share his happiness with us. However, since God respects human freedom, he is not forcing our response to him. Instead, he calls us to seek him, to know him, and – after finding how amazing he is – to love him.
This is exactly what we see in the attitude of the Magi in today’s Gospel. These wise star-watchers, represent among the pagans the docile openness and readiness to obey the truth that we first found in Mary and in Joseph. They reveal the essence of their soul’s attitude to king Herod when they said to him: “We saw… and we came.” As in Mary and Joseph, in the Magi, too, we find a simple directness and speed leading without hesitation from insight to action: they saw the Newborn King’s star, and immediately they came to adore him. In these pagans we encounter a perfect unity between patient science and moral justice that offers a permanent example to us Christians: the wise man seeks truth, and when he finds it he does not hesitate to adore it, to subject himself to it.
What the Magi want to do as the goal of their entire exhausting journey, is to adore. The Greek original Bible text uses the word “proskinesai” for “adore” – literally, to venerate the King by “bending down to the ground” before him. The Truth – God – claims us whole for himself, and blessed indeed we will be if we can manage to surrender ourselves wholly to him, body and soul. Was it not Mary who entirely surrendered herself to her Son and unceasingly adored the Christ from the moment of his conception and after he was born? The Magi simply joined Mary in her veneration.
The Magi in the Gospel story are not the only ones who seek the truth: king Herod, too, made an investigation. However, his inquiry does not lead him to the Truth and to adoration. Herod is a prototype of those who spend time, energy, and talents in protecting their illusions. He is so consumed with self-protecting ambition that he is not able to marvel at the sign of the star he nevertheless believes.
Herod wants the Magi – the people who are looking to adore the King of the Universe – to be spies for him. Only incurable blindness can be so arrogant. Herod prepares the ambush of the real King of the Jews with all the means of earthly power and human duplicity at his disposal. He pretends to want to adore the Newborn King: he tells the Magi that he and they share the same holy intent. Feigning devotion and the search for truth is the chief instrument of his method. He is posing as a pious Jew in quest for God but he intends to destroy what he says he wants to adore. Is not this very method wide-spread in our contemporary world, in our well developed nations? Under the disguise of nicely sounding nomenclature the real moral horror is hidden. Is “reproductive health rights” not a pleasant sounding label? In reality, it stands behind denying the life of an innocent child in the mother’s womb. Is not the “Respect Marriage Act” recently signed into law in the U.S. actually profoundly disrespectful towards real marriage?
The Magi did not allow themselves to be deceived and misled by nice words and the pretentious behavior of king Herod. They recognized and adored THE King – Jesus. Will we follow them?
Let’s all bow down and adore the Newborn King!
Fr. Mark Jurzyk