To Forsake All Things is to Journey as the Wise Men
Our world is not too different than the world of the first century. Then, as now, people agonized over the powerful forces impacting their lives. Then, as now, people fretted about work. Then, as now, people worried about money. Then, as now, people fussed over what others thought of them. But then, as now, there were those who broke free from this view of the world in order to hear, to see, to know, and to follow something that was so radically different from anything else around them, that it struck bewilderment, fear, and even anger among their contemporaries.
The truth is that the journey of the wise men from The Gospel According to St. Matthew is no different than the journey each of us must make in the world today. Think about it this way: have you ever really considered who these people were who came from the East? Sacred Scripture doesn’t tell us much, but what it does say supports an almost 2,000 year-old tradition that these three wise men or kings or scholars were important in their time and place. They were learned for sure; they were quite probably wealthy, and they were most likely respected. But here’s the thing: that doesn’t seem to have been enough for them. Despite what they had in their possession, they risked everything in their lives to seek the Christ, the Messiah.
"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born […] Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.’ When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way" (Mt 2:1-12).
Regardless of the personal cost to each of them individually or to all of them as a group, they willingly gave up every kind of worldly power and comfort to seek the one thing – or the one person – that would give them abiding joy and eternal peace: Jesus Christ. And the truth is: each one of us must face the same decision. That is, once the Holy Spirit has granted the gift of faith, there is no avoiding the question of what it means to give up the world and follow Christ with all of our body, soul, and spirit.
The time has come to take seriously, albeit joyfully, the need to slow down, to find a place of silence, to meditate on God, and to reaffirm our desire to forsake the promises of this world in order to follow Christ now and for all eternity.