And all Jerusalem was troubled.
Is it not mind-boggling to consider that, when the long-awaited Messiah was finally come to the Chosen People, when He was actually among them, His coming is the cause of a disturbance. This short clause, of itself, sets the tone for the rest of the life of the eternal Word Incarnate.
That the despot Herod was troubled was only right. He had every reason to fear – not mind you for his temporal possessions, for these the Lord had no concern for: non eripit mortalia qui regna dat coelestia, we sing in today’s hymn – but for his despotic rule itself, for the Lord wills not that intruders rule over His people. It was normal that Herod was troubled, no more is to be expected of the worthless wretch.
But that the Jews were troubled. This is astounding. It leaves us speechless. How can this be if it is not that they had already caved in, given up, sold themselves out to the enslavement of a pagan. And why, might we ask? There can be only one reason: temporal benefits and prosperity.
And so it is in every age. So it is in our age. Money and power make things happen, they make people talk, they mobilise resources. As much to say that too many are still enslaved to their vices.
The Magi, in the eyes of the Jewish intelligentsia of the time, had one big fault: they were rocking the boat. The Messiah! What? Do you know what that means? That means trouble, for the Messiah is going to change everything, and in his reconstruction, will there be place for us, and our projects?
So many are ready to go to Bethlehem and even to prostrate themselves before the Infant God, but only as long as the child remains harmless and does not ask too much of them. So many are prepared to be Christians and Catholics, but only as long as they can share the honours. They are willing to follow Our Lord to the banquet, but they will not follow Him to Calvary. The problem with that is: Calvary is why Jesus has come.
Today too we are afraid of the child. We are so afraid of the child that, not only do we kill him before he is born, but we prevent his being conceived. Never has there been greater fear of the child than in our world. There are more Herods today than ever. The end result is that God cannot make His way into the world. We have locked Him out. God is still giving vocations, He is still giving us men of genius who can resolve the problems of our world, but we kill them before they are born, and so we dwindle away in the desert. How stifling the stench of our sin! How repugnant to God the intolerable pride of those who usurp the role of God, and thus pave the way for even more future disasters. Dies irae! Oh, the day of wrath will come, and it will be terrible for our godless world!
But for those who seek the Lord, His mercies are not diminished. He still looks after those who truly seek Him. The Magi, knowing how to read the signs of God in the Heavens, are brought safely to Israel, where the star disappears. The disappearance of the star in Jerusalem is mysterious. The Lord seems to be putting them to the test, a test which they pass brilliantly by taking their questions to those who are established by God to give the answers. And soon, their trial is over, their hearts rejoice to see the star again. Rejoice is hardly as sufficient word to translate the triple superlative used by St Matthew – gavisi sunt gaudio magno valde – they rejoiced with an exceedingly great joy.
And so it is for us. We saw a star when we came to serve the Lord, we knew it was the way, but we did not know and we still do not, where it will lead. Then come clouds and doubts, dark days of uncertainty. If we avail ourselves of the means at our disposal, if we entrust ourselves to those whom God has set over us, then the light will be given, we will know, our heart shall rejoice, and our joy no one will take from us, for we will have found Jesus, and Jesus can only be found with His Mother. Then, we can return by another way, a way of conversion, of metanoia, the turning around of the heart, the setting out in a new direction. The new man of the Gospel, the man of the Beatitudes, can be born, and he can grow, and he can make his way to the Eternal Tabernacle where the Word Incarnate will no longer be seen under the humble appearance of a babe or of bread, but as He is, as the radiance of eternal glory. To Him, from all humble and pure hearts, may eternal praise be given.