How can we not think, in this context, of the task of a Bishop in our own time? The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain. Anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church is on many points out of step with the prevalent way of thinking, even in our own day. Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs. Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous. And this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking. The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves. “Those who fear the Lord will not be timid”, says the Book of Sirach (34:16). The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.
I do not think that popular sentiment has come anywhere near close to granting those extraordinary travelers, the Magi, the honor they truly deserve. These “watchers of the sky” must have been divinely inspired, in addition to being intellectually gifted, to have enough faith to leave the comforts of their homeland and embark on what must have been an extremely arduous journey.
The Magi were guided by a star, not a map. They were responding to a belief, not a specific invitation. They were willing to disrupt their lives to venture into the unknown without any assurance that their journey would take them to their destination.
The Magi are prominently featured on Christmas cards. They happily travel three in number, guided by a star, bringing gifts for the newborn babe. It all seems so beautifully scripted. They are easy to take for granted, appearing to be an inevitable part of the Christmas picture. T. S. Eliot, in his poem, Journey of the Magi, however, describes their pilgrimage in most unsentimental terms:
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelter,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.