The other day, I happened upon the PBS show Nova, which deals with scientific progress presented in a very accessible way to an average layman like me. Though I wasn’t particularly good in science as a high school student, and maybe not even particularly interested, I now often find myself fascinated by what the program presents. Nova takes us into deep space, virtually riding along with the satellite New Horizons as it explored the most remote edges of our solar system. There in beautiful high definition, was the midget planet Pluto. Amazing. But New Horizons wasn’t done. Way, way out there, in what is known as the Kuiper Belt, the spacecraft was sent to an object that the scientists weren’t even sure existed until recently due to its small size and distance from our telescopes rendering it nothing but a small dot in the sky that behaved strangely. New Horizons was sent out there to find out what it was.
Can you imagine, starting a journey of billions and billions of miles, and really not having any idea what you are going to see and find when you arrive? Who would do such a thing? I’ll give you two examples: the incredible and curious scientist-explorers at NASA, and the three men we saw in our Gospel today, who, also not knowing what they were going to find, went anyway, because that’s what curious human beings have got to do.
We really don’t know where they came from. We really don’t know what they did. Some say they were kings, but that’s doubtful. Besides, “magi” doesn’t mean kings; it means, literally, ‘teachers.’ Most think they were astronomers who, just like the NASA explorers, saw something funny going on in the skies and were compelled to find out more about the phenomenon and wouldn’t give up until they knew. But one thing’s for certain: compelled by scientific curiosity, they found out a lot more than scientific data: what they found was the creator of all scientific data. They found, in the person of Jesus Christ, God. That’s even more remarkable than what NASA did this week, and by far.
God can use many avenues to introduce Himself to us. The Jewish people had their traditions, but these magi were not Jews. In all probability, they were pagans. Some might come to know of the existence of God through the beauty of nature, some through the experience of human good will. Some, I’m sure, through science. But one thing is for certain: they weren’t seeking to find God when they began their journey, even though they knew they were seeking something. It was actually just the opposite. In reality, God was seeking them.
For many years we’ve been told that the meaning of the Epiphany of the Lord was that God manifested Himself to all people at that point, not just the Jewish people. That’s absolutely what He did, but let’s not forget that in order for God to be successful in manifesting Himself, we must meet Him halfway by being interested enough, or curious enough even, to want to be sought out by Him. That meeting may be accidental like the magi, or it may be planned like what New Horizons did. But it must be a partnership of you and God in order for it to happen. The magi’s meeting was accidental in the sense that it wasn’t specifically the Christ that they were seeking, but they were open enough, and curious enough, to let God open the door and to take them where He knew they needed to go.
Our meditation as we consider this incredible and improbable Gospel story today should be on that partnership of faith: are we open to God seeking us, and are we interested in being found by the God who loves us so much?
Many people speak of having an epiphany. They usually mean some revelation that changes their lives. The magi this day had a true epiphany, but also, let me ask, what about you? Do you invite God in, do you allow him to seek you, do you seek Him so that you too can have a revelation that will change your life? Would you have been as curious as were the magi to find the truth? Look at what a little openness to something new can bring!
By the way, for those of you who may not have had the opportunity to view the Nova episode, what New Horizons found was a rock object that is the very beginning of a planet,that told the engineers much about how all planets, including our own, are made. The spacecraft sought, it found, and we are richer for the knowledge. Let that, my friends, also be our own approach in seeking God. Seek, find, and be enriched. What you will find is, ask any scientist or magi if you can find one, if you let it, something beautiful that will absolutely change your life.