The Wise Men Change Their Minds
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, the Wise Men
departed for their country by another way.
The Magi, going in search of the newborn King of the Jews, set out on a path that was unknown to them. They simply “followed a star rising in the east” and trusted that it would lead them to that which they were seeking. This was enough for them. In addition to the “star” (their personal inspiration), part of their journey was having to ask for directions (when they lost their way) upon arriving in Jerusalem. They could not achieve their goal without assistance (from others who knew more than they did) at some point, and this is the same way God wishes to deal with us, giving us assistance through the church, the scriptures, a well-formed conscience and the experiences of daily life.
From their path we also can learn that in our own journey through life, God will guide us, though the way forward can often seem unknown or even threatening to us. Still we keep going, trusting that God will guide us. God will often lead us just one step at a time. If we cannot see the far goal, we can always put one foot in front of another and allow God to lead us on our journey through these simple daily inspirations and duties of the present moment.
Fortunately, the Magi had a plan to get back, certain that they were confident in knowing their way home when they were done. But now, see that God has suddenly changed their plans. Unexpectedly, they must return by a new way. God has warned them to take a different path home. Am I open to a sudden change of plans when God’s permissive will requires it? To cite just one recent example, weather issues suddenly kept many people from getting home for Christmas back east this year despite the best of planning. In the same way, we grow in our walk with God even through circumstances that at the time do not seem optimal to us. No doubt the desire and appreciation of just “being home” at Christmas becomes of paramount importance when, despite our best efforts, it remains out of reach. We may think we are in control of our life and plans secure, but this is an illusion. All is ultimately in the hands of God. The lesson: trust in God, not just ourselves!
There is yet another way of looking at the Magi having changed their plans. Having discovered and seen Jesus, the newborn King of the Jews, their return by a different way symbolizes repentance, a change of heart. When I encounter Christ in my daily life, or hear a scripture or word at Mass that strikes me, the Lord then invites me to a new way, a change of heart, a change of plans. The Magi, then, have much to teach us, both coming and going.