“WHERE IS THE NEWLY BORN KING of the Jews?” inquired a group of Magi, or wise men, who came to Jerusalem from the East some time after the Christ Child’s birth. “For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” They expected Him to be in a royal palace in the capital.
Their arrival and announcement stirred the whole city, and King Herod’s agents were not slow in warning him of this latest possible threat to his crown. He immediately summoned the chief priests and Scribes and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They informed him: ”In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet, ‘And thou, Bethlehem, of the land of Judah, art by no means least among the princes of Judah; for from thee shall come forth a leader who shall rule my people Israel.’ ”
Then sending secretly for the Magi, Herod carefully inquired of them the exact time of the star’s appearance; and pretending to be desirous of adding his own adoration to theirs, he encouraged them in their search for the new King and admonished them to inform him of their success.
Resuming their journey, the Magi were overjoyed to see again the star that had prompted their pilgrimage. It went before them until it came to rest over a house where the Child was. Entering, they found Him with His mother. Their first act was one of worship, “… falling down they adored Him.” Then, as Orientals scarcely ever visit a superior without offering gifts, they set before the Infant Christ presents of the most precious products of their country: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
These men, the first gentiles to pay homage to Christ, did not remain long in Bethlehem. They could not. They had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and a delay in hearing from them would be sure to arouse the suspicion of the distrustful king. So they promptly returned to their own country by another route, probably by going south, away from Jerusalem, around the lower end of the Dead Sea.
Meditation: Herod pretended to be religious; he pretended he wanted to honor the new born King. His real purpose was to make his own position secure. No thought of honoring another entered his mind. His words to the Magi were lies. At times we can be like Herod: we can perform our religious duties, not because we want to honor God, but because of less worthy motives, perhaps even out of human respect. Why did I go to Mass last Sunday?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 11-12. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.