The Wise Men were looking for Jesus. It took some doing, but they found him, and they honoured him.
The future St Paul wasn’t looking for Jesus – but Jesus found Saul of Tarsus and turned him into an apostle.
Herod was looking for Jesus, but only to destroy him. He didn’t succeed.
When Jesus was 12, his earthly parents went looking for him. They found him debating with scholars in the Temple.
When I was 11, I wasn’t looking for Jesus. I was growing up perfectly happily and accepting scientific explanations of why and how the world around me had come to exist. But then, in a time of sadness, I said the first serious prayer of my lifetime and discovered that Jesus was there for me.
Later, after hearing lots of sermons, I became puzzled. So many preachers talked about people having a ‘God-shaped hole’ and a kind of dissatisfaction in their life which went away when they met Jesus and invited him in. But that didn’t match my own experience. Once I’d gotten over my grandmother’s death, things could have gone back to my previous happy existence. But now I had discovered Jesus was really there, and that discovery was going to change the entire course of my life.
Just a few years ago, I was in Manchester and popped into a weekday Mass where a priest said something profound. The Gospel that day declared the the Kingdom of Heaven was like a fine pearl that a merchant went and bought – or like a treasure that someone stumbled over in a field. Some of us, said the preacher, know we’re looking for something of immense value, and recognise Jesus as the answer when we find him. But others, like the person walking in the field, are going through life quite happily when they trip over the treasure which is Jesus and recognise his value. Eureka! At last, here was a priest who understood my journey. Not all of us suffer from a God-shaped hole. But all of us can receive the Gift of Jesus when we find him!
Now, the Gift of Jesus is not a convenient, comfortable gift. Yes, it brings satisfaction – of seeing the value of who Jesus is, if not how he answers the deep questions some of us have been asking. But when we receive this Gift, it comes at a cost!
For the Wise Men, the cost was a long and difficult journey, an awkward encounter with Herod, and the riches which they left at the manger.
For the Blessed Mother, the cost was giving birth far from home, exile in Egypt, the stress of her Son lost in the Temple, the worry caused by Jesus in his days of preaching, and the pain of Calvary.
For Saul of Tarsus, the cost was a temporary loss of his vision, a humble admission that he had been wrong to reject Jesus as God-made-man, numerous beatings and stonings in the cities where he preached, a shipwreck, and his execution in Rome.
For me, the cost was turning away from the first plan I had made for my life, of a career as a research scientist, and retraining for another seven years to become a priest; and then the cost of priesthood, where a man sacrifices the chance to have a social life at weekends and evenings so that others can feed on the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ.
The prophet Isaiah encouraged God’s people not to look at the difficulty and darkness which surrounded them, but to look up, and see the light of God leading them on. Are you wise enough to look for Christ leading you? When you see him, you too will grow radiant, your heart “throbbing and full”!
Wise Catholics look not at the darkness around them, but at their guiding star – and that star is Christ himself. Today is all about gifts; perhaps it is a good day to ask Christ to renew the gifts of confirmation, which include the courage and fortitude we need for our journey through life.
The question is, have you found Jesus? If you are in pain, anxious, searching, have you said a prayer asking Jesus for what you need? If you’re not in any special need, do you recognise the value of this Holy Child whose birth we celebrated at Christmas? Have you allowed this child to make inconvenient demands of you? Can you rejoice, with St Paul, that you have shared in a message from God about who you are and what God wants you to inherit?
St Peter, in his second letter, encouraged us to think about God’s message ‘until the morning star rises in your hearts.’ This year, 2020, is one which our Bishops have dedicated to the ‘God who speaks’. If to you, the message of Jesus doesn’t feel like a pearl of great price or a buried treasure, then maybe this is a good year to take a fresh look at the Bible, and maybe read one of the Gospels from beginning to end.
Was Jesus really God’s Son?
Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Did Jesus real heal sick people and cast out demons?
Did Jesus mean it when he told us we must eat his body and drink his blood if we wanted to enter eternal life?
Are you looking for Jesus? I believe that if you lift up your eyes and seek the answers to these questions, as Isaiah prophesied, your hearts will grow ‘throbbing and full’ and Jesus himself will become your heartthrob.
Have you found Jesus? Good. But don’t leave him in the pages of the Bible or locked in the tabernacle here in Church. Take him home with you and share him with your friends.
When the wise men set out on their journey, there were many foolish voices trying to persuade them against it.
Some of the foolish voices suggested that the journey wasn’t worth taking at all.
The wise men knew that this King deserved their personal attention. Will you be wise enough to give him yours?