The Magi’s truth, charity, and hope

Twelve days after Christmas or January 6, which is tomorrow, is the day when Christians celebrates the Three Kings also referred to as the Magi or the Wise Men. It remembers the day when Three Kings from the East, traditionally from Persia, Saudi Arabia and India, visit Jesus in the manger bearing with them gifts of myrrh, gold and frankincense. While the Gospel of Matthew never mentions the number of kings, Western church tradition has it that there are three considering the number of gifts they brought with them. Matthew tells us that upon hearing of the news of the birth of the promised Messiah, King Herod becomes frightened and begins to set up a plan to eliminate him.  He then secretly calls upon the Wise Men and asks them to inform him of the place where the Messiah is born. However, after paying homage to the child Jesus, the Three Kings, having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, leaves for their own countries by another path.

Three Kings and the Baptism of Christ are often referred to as the Epiphany of “revelation” because it is on these events that Jesus Christ has finally revealed himself as the Son of God.  It is in these two momentous events that Jesus manifested himself to all nations. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation . . . Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.”

During the mass in observance of  the Epiphany last Year, Pope Francis asked his audience to recall the three wise men who followed a star to find the baby Jesus. Francis suggested asking “what star we have chosen to follow in our lives?” “Some stars may be bright, but do not point the way. So it is with success, money, career, honors and pleasures, when these become our lives,” the pope said, adding that path won’t ensure peace and joy.

Ahead of the Epiphany, Francis said, addressing Italian Pilgrims last January 2, 2019, “Like the Magi, we also raise our gaze to the heavens; only in this way, will we be able to see the star that invites us to walk the paths of goodness.” “If we want to find Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction and our indolent refusal to ask anything more of life,” Francis said. “We need to take risks simply to meet a Child . . . Those risks are immensely worth the effort since in finding that Child, in discovering his tenderness and love, we rediscover ourselves.”

The Three Wise Men, also traditionally called the Magi, were the only ones who saw the star leading the way to the manger because they were among the few people who raised their eyes to the heavens. “We often make do with looking at the ground: it’s enough to have our health, a little money and a bit of entertainment,” Francis added. “I wonder if we still know how to look up at the sky. Do we know how to dream, to long for God, to expect the newness he brings, or do we let ourselves be swept along by life, like dry branches before the wind?, the Pope asked.

“Jesus’ star does not dazzle or overwhelm, but gently invites,” Francis said, calling on the faithful to beware of the “meteors” and “shooting stars” that promise success, wealth and fortune only to quickly fade away and “mislead rather than lead.” The Lord’s star, he said, while not shining as bright as others, is a reliable and constant light that “takes you by the hand in life and accompanies you” to peace and joy as it did with the Magi.”

Another quality the pope encouraged Christians to borrow from the Three Wise Men is to “set out” in order to find Jesus. In order to do this, the faithful must also free themselves from unnecessary burdens and push through life’s obstacles. “Jesus allows himself to be found by those who seek him, but to find him we need to get up and go, not sit around but take risks, not stand still, but set out. Jesus makes demands: he tells those who seek him to leave behind the armchair of worldly comforts and the reassuring warmth of hearth and home. Following Jesus is not a polite etiquette to be observed, but a journey to be undertaken.”

As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, let us ask for three gifts from the Magi: truth, charity, and hope.

We need the truth in this country. We must speak truth to power. Enough with fake news! Enough with deceitful explanations of misogynous and blasphemous statements! Enough with deluding ourselves that we are on the right direction! The truth is it will get worse before it becomes better.

That is why we need the grace of charity. We must seek dialogue, reach out. Human rights are universal and for everyone – certainly for the worker, peasant, urban poor, or indigenous leader that is being attacked for standing up for their interests, definitely for human rights lawyers and social/political activists being killed or arrested, but also for the drug addict and pusher targeted by Duterte’s war against drugs as well as for the politician or official being charged with corruption.

Some people are upset at my views about GMA’s and more recently Revilla’s acquittal, but one must be consistent on human rights, including the presumption of innocence and due process whether the accused is a social or political activist, an opposition personality being harassed by the government, or an alleged corrupt politician or official. As I keep repeating to my Constitutional Law 2 students, the criminal due process rights are essential in society; they are rights that most of us would never invoke but would want to make sure it’s there if we need it. The saying that it’s better for nine guilty men to be set free rather than one innocent man be convicted and punished rings true when you are or a loved one is that innocent man.

Finally, from the Magi, we ask for hope, which, according to Pope Francis, is one of most needed virtues of modern time is hope, something which must never be abandoned no matter how hard life gets, and which is often expressed in the simple act of a smile. According to Francis: “When we are in darkness and difficulty the smile doesn’t come, but there is the hope that teaches us to smile on that path to find God . . . It’s enough to never lose hope, it’s enough to continue to believe, always, despite everything . . . Let us also smile even if it was a difficult day, because we see the hope.”

Hope comes easier for those are despised and do not count for anything, said Pope Francis, citing Zechariah and Elizabeth who were elderly and infertile, Mary, a young virgin betrothed to Joseph, and the poor shepherds. “It is the small ones, made great by their faith, the little ones who know how to continue to hope,” he said, adding that it is they who are able to transform “the desert of exile, of desperate loneliness, of suffering, into a level road on which to walk to meet the glory of the Lord.” “Let us therefore teach hope, let us look forward faithfully to the coming of the Lord and whatever the desert of our lives, it will become a flowery garden,” Pope Francis concludes.

From the Magi we need the truth to live faithfully, charity to love each other, and hope to be truly happy.

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