The three wise men have caught our attention more so than the other group in Matthew’s Gospel. The other group are the shepherds, and we have very few stories about them. I think the reason for that is because, in the Gospels, the shepherds are told everything.
They encounter a very talkative angel, and the angel tells them every detail. Where the Child is to be found; who is there and how to get there. When the shepherds arrive at the cave, the angel appears again to verify the place. And when the shepherds return, they are guided by a whole Heavenly choir of angels singing to them along the way.
So, these shepherds have no doubts, questions or problems; no persecutions, no mystery. They didn’t have to seek information. It was handed to them. They had it made.
That’s not our experience. The easy-come, easy-go shepherds are not for us. Our experience is more like the struggling Magi. Like them, we are searchers. We often have difficulty with the large questions of life. We can be harassed by modern-day Herods. People who have no respect for any human life – theirs, ours, or others. We worry about our children growing up in a consumer society with materialism and greed all around.
We worry about family life, about crime on the streets. We worry about war, recession and death. We no longer feel safe living outside our own country. Yes, we too could do with some Heavenly messengers and assurances such as the shepherds got. But the fact is, we experience neither. We identify more with the Magi, struggling across the hot desert with only a vision and hope to guide them.
In many ways, the Magi are our kind of people: they are searchers, and so are we. We cannot search, travel or find anything alone. We need each other. That is why we come to Mass. Alone, we face the danger of becoming distorted or lost. We need the collective wisdom of the community; the collective support and prayers of each other.
We are a Church. A Church that listens together, that searches the scriptures together and cries out together, “Lord, have mercy on us.”
The Magi didn’t have all the answers to life. Neither do we. They had a wicked king after them. In many ways, so do we. When we are hounded by vices and sins.
But on their life travels, they had fellowship and the light of Christ to guide them. And so do we.
Notice that they enter the stable in silence. No words were adequate to describe at all what they had found. And falling down, they adored the child and opening their treasures they offered Him their gifts.
Their long and dangerous journey was at an end, and they looked upon the face of the Messiah.
And so will we.