drawing of the Magi, shepherds,an angel, the star by Patti Birdsong

They Searched for God

by Pope Benedict XVI

The Wise Men from the East embody the men and women who in every age set out on the way which leads to the Child of Bethlehem to offer him homage as the Son of God and to bow down before him.

These men who set out towards the unknown were men with restless hearts—men driven by a restless quest for God and the salvation of the world. They were filled with expectation, not satisfied with their secure income and their respectable place in society. They were looking for something greater.

They were, no doubt, learned men, quite knowledgeable about the heavens and probably possessed of a fine philosophical formation. But they desired more than simply knowledge about things.

They wanted above all else to know what is essential. They wanted to know how we succeed in being human. And therefore they wanted to know if God exists and where and how he exists.

And they wanted to know whether or not he is concerned about us and how we can encounter him. Nor did they want just to know. They wanted to understand the truth about themselves and about God and the world.

Their outward pilgrimage was an expression of their inward journey, the inner pilgrimage of their hearts.

They were men who sought God and were ultimately on the way towards him. They were seekers after God.

Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God’s own restlessness for us.

Faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God, and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth, and love.

The Wise Men from the East were also and above all, men of courage, the courage and humility born of faith. Courage was needed to grasp the meaning of the star as a sign to set out, to go forth—towards the unknown, the uncertain, on paths filled with hidden dangers.

We can imagine that their decision was met with derision: the scorn of those realists who could only mock the reveries of such men.

Anyone who took off on the basis of such uncertain promises, risking everything, could only appear ridiculous. But for these men, inwardly seized by God, the way which he pointed out was more important than what other people thought. For them, seeking the truth meant more than the taunts of the world, so apparently clever.

The Wise Men followed the star, and thus came to Jesus, to the great light which enlightens everyone coming into this world.

As pilgrims of faith, the Wise Men themselves became stars shining in the firmament of history, and they show us the way.

From the homily of the Mass of the Epiphany at the Vatican Basilica, January 6, 2013