By Canon Gerry Conroy
The story of the wise men following a star to the stable at Bethlehem is one of the most memorable parts of the Christmas story. These men who were seekers of wisdom followed a star, which to our modern mind might well seem like a piece of nonsense, the action of an eccentric or worse, someone who takes their horoscope readings just a bit too seriously. But these wise men were the scientists, the intellectuals of their day. They had succeeded in mapping out the heavens with a mathematical precision that modern day scientists still marvel at given the limited means available to them. So they were by no means fools. If anything, where they fell down was how they interpreted what they discovered. But that is not something we are much better at for all our progress. We can still look at things and draw the wrong conclusions.
What I find impressive about those Magi was that they were seekers. They were looking for the reality they believed they saw signalled in the stars. And their star led them eventually to Bethlehem. Not perhaps where they expected to go, but they were true to their search, they didn’t allow their prejudices to mislead them, they were open to what they would find, so they were true scientists in there best sense of the term. Their search for answers, for meaning and purpose was a true and honest search.
I’m sure they were surprised at what they found: no show of glory or power, but Wisdom brought them to a different encounter. If they had started out their journey thinking that wisdom was to be found by looking at the stars, if they once thought that understanding their life could be achieved by their science alone, their journey brought them to an encounter with love. That must have been a startling, if not life-changing discovery for them. This discovery that science wasn’t the only source of wisdom, that love also was a source of knowledge. Discovering a wisdom in love that helps us understand our life and its purpose is part of the primordial experience of every man and woman, and it is what faith is leading us to.
Pope Francis said, ‘Faith is born of an encounter with God’s primordial love’. It is this primordial love of God that reveals to us the meaning and purpose of our life. We already realise that there is more to life than science can explain, and os we expend so much of our imagination and creativity in exploring human love, exalting it as the greatest good, but it points us to something greater – this love we treasure has its origin in God and we see that primordial love revealed to us in Bethlehem in the birth of Christ. Like the magi, it is to the understanding of ourselves and life that we find there that all knowledge is leading us. If we would only understand, then we would see more clearly the mystery and beauty of who we are and of our whole life.