In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
On the Feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate the wisdom of three holy fools: those who refused to give in to the earthly power of a murderous King Herod and thereby saved the life of the Prince of Peace.
It didn’t have to happen this way, of course—there can be great benefits to appeasing people in power. But the wise men chose the more difficult path, one which put their lives in danger and led them home by another way. They chose this, despite the seeming foolishness of their endeavor: delivering a few gifts to a newborn. They chose this road because they knew it was the right thing to do. They chose this road because they knew the identity of the true King.
Even though it may not seem like it, we are faced with choices like theirs too. The path of least resistance is always tempting. I am encouraged, however, by the foolishness of the ordinary saints among us—those who work to make this world more loving, just, and fair, even in the face of the world’s hatred and despair.
White mobs stormed the U.S. Capitol today. They did so with brazen impunity in the face of a fair election, while the very same lawmakers who stoked the fires of sedition prayed for calm in the privacy of their Twitter feeds: already too little; all too late. The fact of the matter, though, is that they are not solely to blame. This is no mere blip in the long arc of American history. This insurrectionist violence—and the racial animus that enlivens it—is in the water, so to speak, and we would be wise to take note, not of its novelty, but of its ever-pressing, death-dealing force.
Friends, I would be lying if I told you that everything will be fine once a peaceful transition of power takes place (though that may certainly help). But I can tell you about a truth that remains a source of hope for me, as the Feast of the Epiphany comes to a close: we will always be in good company when we choose the way of the wise men. Their road may be long, and it will certainly be dangerous, but the people you meet there—those who choose the long, hard work of fearless love, lasting justice, and true peace—will give you a taste of the Heavenly Banquet. They will give you a glimpse of the one called Immanuel: God with us in the flesh.
Take courage, my friends: the holy fools lead the way. Chasing after the Prince of Peace is a lifetime’s work, so let’s get to it.
— Fr. JavierTags: From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey