Below are my final reflections from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Ch 4. As before, the quotes are indented, my thoughts are in italics.
Again and again, Pope Benedict comes to these questions: who are the magi and why did they travel?
[They] were wise. They represent the inner dynamic of religion toward self-transcendence, which involves a search for truth, a search for the true God and hence “philosophy” in the original sense of the word. Wisdom, then, serves to purify the message of “science”: the rationality of that message does not remain at the level of intellectual knowledge, but seeks understanding in its fullness, and so raises reason to its loftiest possibilities.
The wise men from the east are a new beginning. They represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ…they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religious and human reason toward him.
He writes that the star represented hope. Today I spoke with a woman whose heart was breaking because of crises in her family and a crisis with a student at the school where she works. “Do you have anything,” I asked, “that can renew or refresh you’re heart?” After some thinking she said: time with her grandchild. It took her a while before she thought of that. How hopeless the world can look when we carry it all on our shoulders, how small the world can look, how frustrating. We know in our hearts there is something more.
The life force pulls us back from the thing that will kill us. But where is the hope? Where is the star in my life? I’m looking for happiness but the sky is full of clouds. There are areas in my life where I feel competent, whole, and I can forget my troubles. But then the troubles come as a storm to stop me. Obstacle after obstacle, I believe I will fail.
How many of us have experienced those thoughts in our life? Where was the star? Where was my hope? The wise men went searching. Why did they go? They were wise. We have to search. We have to find that hidden ingredient and fight, tooth and nail, to restore hope in our lives.
At the end we can only find Christ and each scrap of happiness ultimately points us to him. We can’t make the rules ourselves. We can’t forget the rules because the rules are there to guide us to our proper star. I can’t look at the stars and guide myself. I need the wisdom of ages past to help me understand what it means, to make my way through the wilderness.
What from the lofty perspective of faith is a star of hope, from perspective of daily life is merely a disturbance, a cause for concern and fear. It is true: God disturbs our comfortable day-to-day existence. Jesus’ kingship goes hand in hand with his Passion.
And if we aren’t searching? If we aren’t searching, perhaps we are all the more lost. Am I so satisfied with all I have achieved? The danger of wealth is the beginning of believing that in wealth lies my security. To put our trust in anything but God is to make an idol of it. But this makes me happy, we might argue. I have never felt such joy before and now I feel so much more complete. The thing will fail, because it is a false god and the true God is “that that which nothing greater can be thought.” Stock markets will fail, recessions occur, housing opportunities drop, physical ability decrease or slowly disappear, mental ability weaken, nature cause calamity, spouses disappoint. The only thing in our life in which we can truly trust is the one that can never fail. If other things make us happy, wonderful, but they cannot be the end.
The search is a terrible one, painful, stripping bit by bit of our security away from things we have worshiped unknowingly, exterior idols or painted idols of a god made in our image, not the image of the true Triune God revealed to us. Are we willing to be uncomfortable? Are we willing to give up the creature comforts we’ve trusted so much to see how little we are?
There are those for whom this desert comes without choice: illness, death, depression. A star can pull us out, keep us going.
Let us look for the star. Allow ourselves to be uncomfortable and trust the Lord that he can show us the way, the way through the desert. The wisdom of the Church and her moral teaching provides the understanding of how to navigate the stars. It is a long journey to come from the east, full of danger. But when you arrive to that crib, lay down your gifts, and lay down your head to worship him, you have found your star, unrecognizable as it may be in the beginning. But it will grow. First we find him in helplessness, bound by swaddling clothes. As we see the promise in miracles, the path transforms to one that tries us more than we ever imagined, the cross. But then comes glory. Then comes the kingdom. Then comes our God, risen from the dead.