The Magi, who came in search of the Child-King Jesus from the East, are sometimes called the Wisemen. Their travelling was difficult — no comfortable cars with music, air-conditioning, nor luxurious motels and restaurants along the way. There travelling was long — many long arduous and grueling miles.
Physically, their travelling would have been very stressful; if they traveled on camels can you imagine the strain, duress, and physical exhaustion? In sum, they were willing to count the cost to encounter the Lord Jesus resting in the arms of Mary, contemplated by the eyes and heart of good Saint Joseph. As the saying wisely teaches us: “Wise men still find Jesus in the arms of Mary.”
Are You Wise?
What indeed is wisdom? According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Wisdom is the greatest of all of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. A short and easy definition for wisdom can be expressed as such: “Wisdom is the Gift of the Holy Spirit that moves us to relish the things of God.” As a child licks and savors chocolate dipped ice cream, so a true follower of Christ relishes all that refers to God, His honor and His glory and the salvation of immortal souls.
The opposite of wisdom is folly. Jesus offers us a short parable on the Rich-fool! This was a man who had an abundant harvest; he decided to tear down his barns, build more spacious barns. Then he would sit back, relax and enjoy comfort and pleasure because he thought in his mind that he had a long life ahead. Jesus calls the man a fool because that very night his life would end and where will all of his wealth and possessions end up? (The Parable of the Rich Fool: Lk. 12:16-21)
A Sign of Folly
What might be a sign of folly? There are many but we will highlight one of the key and most evident signs; then in honor of the wise men who brought Jesus the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh we will point to through the interpretation of these gifts what true wisdom is and how we can attain it!
Many are in the frenetic pursuit of making money, accumulating money, saving money and bragging over the money they have. The Beatles even taught us through song—Money can’t buy me love. In A Christmas Carol, Ebeneezer Scrooge realized through a dream that hoarding money was not the key to happiness, but rather the true means to attain joy and happiness is in giving away to those who have less — Bob Cratchet, Tiny Tim and family.
Jesus points out in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man that the ardent pursuit of money which can buy pleasure can totally blind us to Jesus, especially as He is present in the poor outside the gate. Worse yet, this neglect of Jesus in the poor can jeopardize our immortal salvation. The rich man was not lost so much for what he did do but for what he failed to do (sin of omission) by not helping out the poor man outside the gate who was really Jesus.
Might there be a Lazarus in your life that you are stepping over and neglecting?
Now let us turn and lift our gaze on how we indeed can truly be wise men and women by focusing on Jesus and giving to Jesus through these three symbolic gifts of Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh.
The Gift of Gold to the Child Jesus
One of the wise men presented Jesus with the precious gift of gold.
Even though this wise man was a King from the East, he recognized what he saw as he prostrated himself before that little baby: this little infant in the arms of Mary was indeed a king. This Jesus in the arms of Mary was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and the Creator of the whole universe.
By the gesture of prostration, this earthly, but very wise King humbly put the Lord Jesus on the throne of his heart. Then for us let us dethrone all that is unworthy of our noble calling, as followers of Jesus the King. Let us reaffirm our allegiance to Jesus and enthrone Him as the King of our mind, heart, soul, and entire life. “Long live Christ the King!”
Gift of Incense to Jesus the Son of God
Incense is a fragrant aroma that once burnt ascends on high to the heavenly realm. In Holy Mass incense can be used in the celebration of solemnities. The altar is incensed, the Gospel, the priest who represents Christ, and most important the Host consecrated while lifted on high. Saint Paul says that we are called to be the aroma of Christ. This means that we are called to imitate Christ by living a virtuous life. Traditionally, incense is also symbolic of prayer, our intimate union with God.
As the white smoke from the incense pot (thurible) ascends slowly reaching the very roof of the Church and beyond if it were possible, so do our prayers ascend on high to the throne of the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. Therefore, not only do we want to proclaim in a triumphant hymn of praise that Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings but He is also the Immortal, Infinite, all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
Jesus in His incarnation is the Son of God made man. Let us renew our belief in the Divinity of Jesus. In the hymn of St. Paul, at the Name of Jesus may every knee bow in heaven and on earth and even below the earth proclaiming Jesus as Lord. (Philippians 2: 5-11)
A Gift of Myrrh to the God Made Man
What then is the third gift traditionally given to the Christ-Child by one of the Kings from the East?
It is myrrh! This was an element utilized for the purpose of anointing a dead body. Symbolically the myrrh pointed to the Humanity of the Lord Jesus that was destined to suffer and die for the salvation of the world at large as well as each and every one of us individually. To be more exact the myrrh was already pointing to what would happen to Jesus on Good Friday. Jesus’ bitter passion that He would undergo that Good Friday would result in His bitter death, and burial and the myrrh was an element used to anoint His dead Body. Interpretation for us? We are called to die daily to the flesh, to sin, to selfishness, to egoism, to pride—in a word, we are called to crucify and put death all that within us is not of Christ Jesus. Furthermore, we are all called to suffer patiently in this short life that God has given to us, uniting our pains and sufferings to the Lord, so that one day we will be united with God forever in heaven.
In sum, let us leave aside all folly and become like the Wise men who travelled many miles from the East. Let us not allow our hearts to be weighed down by our attachment to the things of this world and materialism. Rather, may our hearts be ready to bow down in homage to Christ the King; may our knees bend in adoration to Jesus the Son of God made man; finally, let us look up to the cross and see Jesus as man who died for us so as to give us life and life in abundance. Let us die to self so as to live forever in heaven with the Trinity forever and ever. Amen