As people of the post-modern world, we love to talk about pseudo-spiritual matters, we tend to turn to astrology, palm and card readings, and mysterious things that would help us to achieve whatever we desire. We rather seek, desire, want, and even go to the point of defending our version of what sounds “true” instead of seeking the truth. We spend a lot of time arguing about politics and opinions, things that are bigger than us and cannot be changed, get angry about the little things and differences, but are indifferent to the truth, things that are theocentric, personal, and impactful.
The magi, according to the Gospel of St. Matthew (2:1-12), set off on a journey of faith, filled with many dangers and unknowns. They set off on a journey of faith, filled with many dangers and unknowns. Their estimated distance would be like from Texas to Montana or California — by camels… Imagine that! They had to trust that the star shines and shows them the way was faithful. Even though they were knowledgable in astronomy, they had to learn to trust nature and divine providence as well. They had to trust that the newborn King was waiting for them because His star was leading the way. Hence, using both natural and supernatural elements, the wise men teach us the right balance of reason and faith, because, too often times, we tend to be extremists of either one.
To be honest, we have seen people who think that only empirical, calculative, humanistic information and knowledge are the only things that are possible. They tend to deny the theological, transcendental, ontological, and spiritual understanding of life! On the other hand, we have religious fanatics who are so fixated in making things everything “spiritual,” yet often end up dumbing faith down to fanaticism and religiosity. Either way, these two extreme approaches focus on the self, even if it is using God for reason as the foundation and basis of argument and legitimation.
In the day and age of self-identification, self-centeredness thoughts and social experimentations, we think that we have the freedom to create, identify, and do whatever we want. We think that we have the right to be whatever we think we are if we believe we are! We think that we are the principal actors and creators of our own self, “I think, therefore I am.” (cf. Rene Descartes)
This postmodern error began with the French philosopher Rene Descartes. Even though he did talk about God in his works, the Almighty often got treated as the secondary, affirmative principle that supports the self-will of the thinker. In the permeating and sprouting spirit of the Enlightenment Age, he began the mainstream thoughts that one wills one’s self in creating, defining, and dictating how one perceives the world and how one thinks of how one is.
As time goes by, God has been pushed farther and farther away as the small(er) secondary cause — only there when we need Him and only exist to affirm or grant what we want — because we have become a people and society that only care about our individualistic selves. We can see the detrimental effects of this way of thinking everywhere around us because we have become more of a rootless, culture-less, family-less, broken, and self-centered society.
Each day, we have found more ways to identify ourselves with more gender, social, “scientific,” and humanistic theories, but all these things only appear to be cutting-edge and progressive because they are appealing, attractive, new, and non-challenging. These theories and revolutions are easy to support because we get to do what we want or think will make us happy, but they have done nothing to change the facts that people are still unhappy, unfulfilled, and at times, miserable deep from within. As a matter of fact, more and more are lost, hopeless, resentful, and cynical as the results of our human and social experimentations. Instead of only searching for answers with human-based ideologies, agendas, theories, and promises, the magi and their search for the truth teach us what it means to seek, trust, and know the Incarnate Word and Truth beyond ourselves.
We can easily know where we come from humanly speaking. But much more important than that, it is important that we know where we come from biblically, theologically, and soteriologically speaking! Those three fancy words simply mean to say that we are not a product of our own making or self-identification. We were made, formed, loved into being, and given life by the Almighty. We are not products of some random or coincidental chances, for each and every one of us has a history that begins with God. Even before we were formed in our mother’s womb, He knows, loves, and wills us into being with His providential grace. Therefore, our history is one that is theocentric and grace-filled, and that is why we can only understand and know who we are in light of His love for us. Who we are and what we are called to become have to be understood in relationship to Him who has willed, watched, and guided us in our life journey. We can spend our whole life trying to figure out what we want to be by ourselves, but we will just end up wearing different facades, masks, and self-made instruments to present ourselves to everyone else as we think they would like us to be without knowing who we truly are. To truly love is to be who we are and to love as God loves us!
St. Pope John Paul II wrote a marvelous encyclical titled, “Fides et Ratio,” on the need for the balance of faith and reason. In his words, they are the two wings that lift us up — heart and soul, mind and body — to the Lord and His teachings. Why? Faith without reason is incomplete and prone to fanaticism. Reason without faith is hopeless and futile.
We are created in the image and likeness of God, endowed with the intellect and free will to seek, know, understand, and love the truth. Reason was given to help us discern what is right and just, but it cannot just stop with us. We have to remember where we come from, who created us, and what we are meant to be! Before we were formed in our mother’s womb, the Lord has willed and loved us into being. Therefore, we are reminded that we belong, as well as our beginning and end, are with Him.
Once we know our purpose, we understand our vocation and identity, hence able to understand, reflect, pray, discern, and make decisions based on both faith and reason that are good, in alignment to the truth, salvation history, the Church‘s teachings, and wonderful examples from the lives of the saints. Therefore, when we know who we are and what we are called to be in the faith, we allow that faith to be integrated, enlivened, actively be the center of our rational, intellectual, human, and holistic exchanges of words and actions, choices, thoughts, interactions, and life itself. We speak, share, and lift our hearts up to the life that is given to us from God so we can make right, proper, just, equitable, and loving choices for the greater good and salvation of all.
Every time we use our faith and reason, we learn to reflect and discern all things through the lenses of intellect and belief as we try to understand all things through the original purpose, meaning, mission, and vocation given to us by the Creator. We become bored and cynical when we are lost without knowing what is real, true, and transcendental in comparison to the things that are around us! Yet, when we take the time to pray, willing to reflect, know, and discern all things in God, we become more at peace with ourselves and others. Even though the small inconveniences will still bother us from time to time, we can find our peace in Him in the midst of all the usual things that surround us. Our faith teaches us that peace is not simply about having things our way or a lack of violence and war. It is the personal, intimate, and deep sense of rest, being loved, and belonging to One who is always with us. As with all good and qualitative things in this world, we need time to bring what is surrounding us to maturity with patience and prayerful discernment. That means that it will take time (while we naturally want things immediately in our own timing) so we all need to learn to patiently trust, prayerfully hope, and lovingly discern all things in accordance with the will of God. This goes back to the essential trust and personal knowledge that is not simply based on how or what needs to be done, but really on who do we trust and love! Therefore, all these things can only be answered when we spend the time to get to know the Lord through prayer by using all things to lift up our hearts from the mundaneness of this world and to spend time well in seeking, loving, and living His will for us.
Therefore, let us never stop loving the truth, especially the truth that comes from the Almighty, hence letting this loving truth sets us free! May we have the spirit of the magi to seek the King of our hearts and let this encounter with Him change our course, transform our lives, and make us joyful in proclaiming His Good News to everyone. For, truly even now, wise men and women still seek Him!