Way back in High School, I played the lead role of the play “Artaban, The Other Wise Man”, a story written in 1895 by Henry van Dyke. It was a beautiful experience in the sense that the practices made me realize the deeper meaning of the search and presence of Jesus in our daily lives. It was an epiphany for me, an insight into the reality or essential meaning of Jesus coming into the world. The fact that the play was performed in an audience which was largely non-Catholic also tells that the mystery and significance of Christ’s coming is meant not only for a few chosen ones but to include everyone as well.
It tells about a “fourth” wise man, who, like the other Magi, saw the sign in the heavens proclaiming that a King had been born among the Jews. Like them, he went on the journey to see the newborn king, carrying treasures to give as gifts to the child – a sapphire, a ruby, and a “pearl of great price”. However, it was told that our hero missed the appointment with the other Magi. He was late to get into Bethlehem to see the Baby Jesus, but he was on time to save one of the Holy Innocents by bribing a soldier with one of his gifts intended for Jesus. For 33 long years, he searched, tailing but without finding the Savior. In his journey though, he helped the poor and the hungry. The last scene I remembered was Artaban, now already old, near the Christ at the crucifixion. He was preparing to offer a pearl as ransom (the last of his gifts), but when he saw a young woman being sold into slavery to pay for family debts, he gave his pearl to obtain the girl’s freedom. All of a sudden there was an earthquake as Jesus died on the cross and a stone fatally struck our hero. In his dying moments he heard a Voice saying, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”(Mt. 25:40)
Today’s Gospel speaks about the inclusion of all creation into the mystery of salvation as part of the body of Christ. All of us have to pay homage to Christ as the Master who leads us all to Him. If you are a fan of astrology, you must discard those beliefs and give way to Jesus, the Real Star of the universe. This is the Star that the Three Wise Men follow. Like them, we should refuse to be tangled in the manipulation of the evil one. The Wise Men’s pilgrimage is a long awaited sign – that the prophecies made long ago in today’s First Reading (Is. 60: 1-6) and Psalm (Ps. 72) are being fulfilled. They come from nations far away, guided by God’s light, bearing gifts and wealth, to praise and pay homage to the God of Israel.
Similarly, our own search for God will be guided by His light for as long as we are discerning and wise to the leadings of the Spirit. There will be detours and threats along the way but despite these, we have to go without being distracted to find Him in the places least expected, and on the appointed time. Just like Artaban, we have to persevere and in the process make His love be felt in the world around by our acts of love and kindness.
“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Mt. 2: 2)