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Posted January 04, 2010 in The Pope's Corner:
The Second Journey of the Magi

by Pope Benedict XVI.

Have you ever wondered what happened to the Magi after they found the Child they had been seeking? The pope has some surprising reflections on the subject.

Outwardly, the journey of the Magi was over when they found and adored the Christ Child. But at this point, a new journey began for them, an inner journey which changed their lives.

The Infant King they had found must have been very different from what they had expected. They had stopped at Jerusalem specifically in order to ask the King who lived there for news of the promised King who had been born. They knew that the world was in disorder, and for that reason, their hearts were troubled.

They were sure God existed and that he was a just and gentle God. And perhaps they also knew of the great prophecies of Israel foretelling a King who would be intimately united with God, a King who would restore order to the world, acting for God and in his Name.

It was in order to seek this King that they had set off on their journey: deep within themselves they felt prompted to go in search of the true justice that can only come from God, and they wanted to serve this King, to fall prostrate at his feet and so play their part in the renewal of the world….

Even if those who had stayed at home may have considered them Utopian dreamers, they were actually people with their feet on the ground, and they knew that in order to change the world, it is necessary to have power. Hence, they were hardly likely to seek the promised child anywhere but in the King’s palace.

Yet now they were bowing down before the child of poor people, and they soon came to realize that Herod, the King they had consulted, intended to use his power to lay a trap for him, forcing the family to flee into exile.

The new King, to whom they were now paying homage, was quite unlike what they were expecting….

This was when their inner journey began—at the very moment when they knelt down before this child and recognized him as the promised King. But they still had to assimilate this internally.

They had to change their ideas about power, about God, and about man, and in so doing, they also had to change themselves.

Now they were able to see that God’s power is not like that of the powerful of this world. God’s ways are not as we imagine them or as we might wish them to be.

God does not enter into competition with the powers of this world. He does not marshal his divisions alongside other divisions. God did not send twelve legions of angels to assist Jesus in the Garden of Olives (cf. Mt 26:35).

He contrasts the noisy and ostentatious power of this world with the defenseless power of love, which succumbs to death on the Cross and dies ever anew throughout history.

Yet it is this same love which constitutes the new divine intervention that opposes injustice and ushers in the Kingdom of God.

God is different; this is what they now come to realize. And this means that they themselves must now become different; they must learn God’s ways.

They had come to place themselves at the service of this King, to model their own kingship on his. This was the meaning of their act of homage, their adoration. Included in this were their gifts—gold, frankincense and myrrh—gifts offered to a King held to be divine….

In this they were certainly on the right path.

By serving and following him, they wanted, together with him, to serve the cause of good and the cause of justice in the world. In this, they were right.

Now, though, they have to learn that this cannot be achieved simply through issuing commands from a throne on high. Now they have to learn to give themselves—no lesser gift would be sufficient for this King.

Now they have to learn that their lives must be conformed to this divine way of exercising power, to God’s own way of being.

They must become men of truth, of justice, of goodness, of forgiveness, of mercy. They will no longer ask: how can this serve me? Instead, they will have to ask: how can I serve God’s presence in the world?

They must learn to lose their life and in this way to find it….

Dear friends, what does this all this mean for us? …

The Magi are just the first in a long procession of men and women who have constantly tried to gaze upon God’s star in their lives, going in search of the God who has drawn close to us and shows us the way.

These are the great multitude of the saints—both known and unknown—in whose lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us….

It is the saints who show us the way of attaining happiness; they show us how to be truly human. Through all the ups and downs of history, they were the true reformers who constantly rescued it from plunging into the valley of darkness.

It was they who constantly shed upon it the light that was needed to make sense—even in the midst of suffering—of God’s words spoken at the end of the work of creation: It is very good (Gen 1:31).

The saints are the true reformers. One need only think of such figures as St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius Loyola, or the saints of our own day, such as Mother Teresa….

Now I want to express this in an even more radical way. Only from the saints, only from God, does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world….

There are many who speak of God; some even preach hatred and perpetuate violence in his name. So it is important to discover the true face of God. The Magi from the East found it when they knelt before the Child of Bethlehem….

We believe and worship the Jesus who is manifested to us by the Sacred Scriptures and who reveals himself to be alive in the great procession of the faithful called the Church, always alongside us and always before us….

Going into the house, they saw the child with Mary, his Mother, and they fell down and worshipped him (Mt 2:11)

Dear friends, this is not a distant story that took place long ago. It is with us now. Here in the Sacred Host, Jesus is present before us and in our midst. As at that time, so now he is mysteriously veiled in a sacred silence.

As at that time, it is here that the true face of God is revealed. For us, he became a grain of wheat that falls on the ground and dies and bears fruit until the end of the world (cf. Jn 12:24).

He is present now as he was then in Bethlehem. He invites us to that inner pilgrimage which is called adoration. Let us set off on this pilgrimage of the spirit and let us ask him to be our guide. Amen.

Excerpted from the homily at a prayer vigil at World Youth Day, Cologne, Germany, August 20, 2005.

 

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