In the ‘old’ days, today would have been the feast of the Epiphany – the very important feast that celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the Magi.  However, despite the movement of the feast to the previous Sunday, we are still, spiritually, under the ‘banners and flags’ of the ‘Three Wise Men’ as they journey the thousand miles to pay homage to the new born ‘King of the Jews’ – a journey that is most relevant to us today.  

For one thing, many of us find that we live in very complex situations just as did the three Magi. Their learning told them that the star they followed was a sign of something very special, but they faced a hazardous journey. Presumably, they travelled as part of a large ‘caravan’: modern cinema portrays them as rich and learned, but even so, they still had to outwit the evil King Herod, who was no less than a murdering tyrant, insanely jealous and afraid of any hint or challenge to his privileged position. There is a lovely extract from St. Matthew’s Gospel that points to their skill: 

“Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him bring me word so that I may go and pay him homage. Whey they had heard the King, they set out….” (Mt. 2: 7-8)


Herod Meets with the Three Wise Men 

All too often, our ‘complexities’ arise because of the choices we make, always within the context of our lives and relationships and given the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ sides of so many of our experiences. Take for instance the choices that lead to alcohol and/or drug addiction; take wanton decisions concerned with the misuse of the internet, and the results of such decisions; take our lazy habits of life and the effects of such habits on our lives and on those around us; takes decisions that lead to all sorts of criminal behaviour. In fact, one could take as a ‘catch-all’ for such decisions, the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, all of which means, essentially, that we push God and the good of our neighbour to one side and concentrate on self and our own self-serving desires.  What we most often fail to realise is that such actions often result in our own self-destruction. But, to return to the Magi, they were ‘good’ men and their complexities, largely, came from the politics and personalities involved; in the same way, we, too, might be affected by complex situations and people – by the decisions made by others.  To many, it must appear that the position is hopeless.  Thank God, it is not! 

God can sort out the worst situations we experience – those we find so impossible to unravel – if only we let Him. We may be ‘locked in’ by the guilt of what we have done; we may have reached an impasse in the relationships we have entered; we may even be seriously ill and find the fear of dying so serious we cannot even speak of it. If you put your minds to it, it is easy to envisage a multitude of dire situations and their causes. For my part, I am grateful to have been able to accompany people in many such circumstances as they have journeyed through life, but I also know that, at the end of their journey, they have found the very same treasure that the Three Wise Men found – Love Incarnate – within, and around them. 

I have often heard it said that ‘nothing is impossible’ to God. My novice master told us all in the noviciate at Ampleforth that ‘God can write straight with crooked lines’. That may give us a different idea of God. Just today, somebody asked me; “What is the only thing God cannot do?” I did not know, and so he explained; “God cannot stop loving each person in this world – even me!” 

The lesson, I think, in all of this, teaches us to follow the example of the Three Wise Men; we should continue the journey we are making in life – perhaps, much longer than a thousand miles – with many dangers and pitfalls along the way, then to discover the treasure we are seeking: God and his love. God provides the solution – the ONLY solution! However, controversially, we should not assume we will find God by our own efforts: a dying man, frightened, told me that his experience of God was that it took time to know Him: He reveals himself slowly, but surely, and then a fuller peace comes. Truly, I marvelled whenever I met this man as he lay dying, because I knew his complex life, and how great a peace he achieved. In the end, he longed to receive the Lord, in Holy Communion, as often as he could. His last words after receiving Viaticum, two hours before he died, were: “Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” I would hope those words might be mine, when it is my turn to depart this life, words spoken in gratitude and love for God, for His many gifts to me, and above all, his merciful love. 

My conclusion might prompt some to ask how am I to make ‘salt’ of all this ‘sand’. Life often puts seemingly insurmountable difficulties in our way.  How can I continue?  Ultimately, God asks the question and provides the answer.  Trust in Him and His infinite love and He will hold our hand along the way, carrying us where need be.  Do not be afraid, for as I said at the start, ‘God can write straight with crooked lines’.