The three Magis were foreigners who came to pay respect to the “New King”. They were the wise men of the Orient or Africa. According to their time and tradition they believed that every great person’s birth was heralded by the rise of a new star. And now seeing the star in Jerusalem, they come to pay homage to this new great figure, whose birth is harbingered by the star, along with some strange gifts.
Today’s Gospel passage is more symbolic than historical. St. Matthew wants to tell us that the Messiah as foretold in the Old Testament, is born to us in Christ Jesus. Through the episode of three wise men coming to Bethlehem with gifts, St. Mathew proves to us that the prophet Isaiah had foretold is accomplished in Jesus. From the Babylonian exile, when Jerusalem was reduced to ruins, Isaiah had proclaimed that people would be marching towards Jerusalem, to the holy mountain, on camels and dromedaries loaded with precious gifts. According to Matthew, the wise men have fulfilled this prophecy.
Then, what about the star? When Israel was still in the wilderness, before entering the promised land, around 1200 years before Christ’s birth, Balaam, a visionary from Pethor, on the Euphrates, even without wanting to, uttered the oracle: “I see him, but not in the present, I behold him, but not close at hand: a star from Jacob takes the leadership, a scepter arises from Israel” (Num 24:17). Matthew is again stressing the same point that Jesus is the Promised One and the Magi’s have worshiped Him, the star of Jacob.
Do we need any proofs to accept Jesus as the promised messiah? Let us remember Jesus’ own words to His disciple Thomas: “Happy are those who do not see me, yet believe”.
–Father Ranjan D’Sa OCD