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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Gift of the Magi

I never met any Jewish people until I went away to college.  The town in which I was raised was mostly German with a handful of Irish, all third and fourth generations of the immigrants who came to the Midwest.

As a child sitting in church, hearing sermons from time to time about how we were not to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus, that "the Jews did not kill Jesus",  I remember thinking, "What kind of bone head would think that?"  I never understood why it was even a topic for discussion.

What I had gleaned from our daily Bible studies and catechism lessons was that Jesus and his friends and everyone to whom he was talking were Jewish. Everyone. These Jewish people were the beloved characters of the Bible, the saints to whom we look for guidance and the Son of God Himself.

This comes to mind to me always on the Feast of the Epiphany.  I identify with the Wise Men from the East.  Like them, we gentiles were late to the party.

Everyone who came to Jesus' birthday party had a role. The shepherds let us know that He came for the very lowest among us and that their gifts are accepted.  The stable also represents human life at its most basic.  The angels announce that He came from Heaven.

And the Wise Men, the sages from the East, the Three Kings as we call them, show up late, cause havoc and slide out of town by a different route.  That's us.  The gentiles, trying to get to the party, but having trouble finding the address.

Keep in mind, by the way, that there is no number of wise men mentioned in the New Testament. Just wise men from the East.  Scholars believe that the number three occurred because of Passion plays of old where a giant pageant could sport twenty Kings or more. Then the number dwindled to twelve, representing the twelve tribes, the twelve apostles, and finally boiled down to three.  A nice round number that is much more easily managed on stage.  St. Bede gave them names and backgrounds.  Great help for actors for ages to come.

A gaggle of out of towners bearing symbolic gifts.  They follow a star but stop off to ask Herod for directions.  They manage to get in to see Jesus before Herod can mobilize his troops, then the visitors realize their blunder and skeedaddle out of town. The Holy Family, previously living in peaceful obscurity, have to uproot their home and flee for their very lives.

I can identify with that.  Sometimes our best intentions are met with some level of chaos.

We have no choice but to make the journey.  We'll never foresee the outcome.  We'll have trouble finding the way, we'll stumble into trouble and we might show up a little late.

We still saddle up the camels everyday to follow the star.


Donna. W said...


JACK said...

Sister, there's a reason they were late. We're talking three guys on a road trip. When they finally figure out they need a little help, look who they ask for directions. HEROD! Is it any wonder that modern men really are uncomfortable stopping? Ya never know what kind of a can of worms you'll open up.

Thanks for all the great postings. Merry Christmas (a little late)!

jeliecam said...

Wonderful thoughts that you have presented. We were pleased to learn the origin of the kings' names.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog! Thank you for your posts! This one in particular is very nice! Have a lovely 2011 and May God bless you in many ways!

Tienne said...

Hi Sister! I had a question for you.

Many people I talk to have dedicated their children to God (or Mary) at birth, and just last month we had the reading about Hannah who gave her son to the Temple when he was weaned.

This has always sat badly with me. I love the idea of my children being dedicated to God, but is that something I should do FOR them? Isn't dedicating your life to God something you should do on your own? After all, I don't own my children.

Thanks for any light you can shed on this practice!


peter said...

I bet that some of you people forgot to wear your scapular today. Shame.

mph said...

Who, where, what, when? What scapular, what day and why (or not)?

Anonymous said...

Three kings, because three gifts are mentioned.