Wise men, Magi as they are called, come from the East in search of the great King, the one who had been announced as the Saviour, the very one who, from the beginning was promised as the woman’s seed and who would crush the head of the serpent. The Wise Men come from a pagan country to the capital of the revealed religion, and what do they find: a fool reigning over the Jews, and Jewish priests and scribes all too ready to curry favour with him and serve his interests. Just how wicked and depraved this king was would sadly be made all too clear with the horrendous episode of the Innocents. But no matter. He is king, and so we must remain in his favour. So thought the misguided Jews at the time. They thought they were wise, and they were fools. The long sought after King had come, He is at their door, and they do not take a single step to go and find Him! How often it is that the “wise” of this world are put to shame by the unexpected appearance of total strangers who are not supposed to be in the know, who are supposed to be pagans, but who in reality are truly searching for God.
It is striking that the Magi do not fear to go to the intruder Herod — who was not a Jew, and the Magi knew this — and speak to him of the “King of Jews.” What courage! What faith in the God who had guided them. Fearlessly they enter his palace and proclaim what they have seen and what they know: a brilliant star has guided them thus far, and they have come to adore the newborn King. It was risky for them, and the mysterious dream warning them to return another way only proves it.
Our world too has its powers that be, and that for the most part are bent on destroying the Christian order, or rather, what sparse elements of it that remain, and replacing them with a man-made paradise on earth, a new Tower of Babel that can only end in utter confusion. Our world also has its priests and scribes who should know the truth, but who, alas, are all too often bent on making sure they do not offend the powers that be, on maintaining their comfortable position without rocking the boat. But like the scribes of today’s Gospel, that attitude is one that risks turning them into accomplices of the most heinous crimes. No matter. God is good, everyone is saved, so they try to convince themselves, backed by scribes who, far from being real theologians, are in reality ideologists reading their own dreams into Sacred Writ, with one goal in mind: don’t rock the boat, maintain the comfort zone.
Assuredly, it is not easy to speak out against evil when evil is in power; it demands courage; it demands the virtue of fortitude, which is one of cardinal virtues. But it also demands the Gift of the Holy Spirit by the same name. And as St Thomas teaches, the Gifts are necessary for salvation, because there are situations in which only a mighty inspiration of the Holy Spirit can save us from mortal sin and keep us in the right path. Heroism is not always optional, it is sometimes of necessity, as in the case of the martyrs who were threatened with death should they refuse to adore false gods.
There is a popular, somewhat vulgar, expression that nevertheless means what it says and expresses it quite well: “When the going gets tough, the tough (meaning, the brave) get going”. Well, today the going is tough for the true faith and for true Christian morals; so either we get going and get tough in our profession of the true faith and of true authentic morality, or we will lose both: there can be no orthodoxy of faith without orthodoxy of practice and morals: the two stand or fall together. What is, is; what is not, is not. It’s that simple.
May the grace be given us, through the intercession of the Virgo Potens — the Virgin most powerful — to be among the truly Wise, those who do not fear what may befall them should they profess the truth publicly. May this new year bring with it an increase in fortitude.