My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The Wise Men used reason to process the information they already had. Reason allowed them to discover the star and to recognize it as a pointer to divine. The Wise Men didn’t see any angels, but by using their scientific knowledge they figured it out. That knowledge got them very close to Jesus. Bethlehem is only 10 kilometers from Jerusalem. However their great knowledge failed to get them to the manger. Their reason was fine but they needed faith. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews? they asked.’ That was not only the correct question to ask but it was also the correct attitude to have because as we are reminded in the Scriptures ‘faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.’ What did the Wise Men hear then? They heard the Word of God, a passage from the Bible, from the Book of the Prophet Micah to be precise: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.’
If reason moved them first out of their home in search for God, faith moved them out of the splendor of the Herod’s royal palace to continue their search. That final leg of their journey, those last 10 kilometers, was a huge leap of faith for them. In fact it was their conversion, metanoia. Their mind was challenged and changed to accept that God and King could be found in a manger.
In 1998 Saint John Paul II wrote a letter to the whole Church. The title of that letter was Fides and ratio, Faith and reason, from the opening words of that letter. Let me read the whole sentence: ‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.’ What is the other name for the truth? It is the name of the One who said of himself: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’ It is Jesus.
Have you seen a bird with a clipped wing? It is a sorry image. There is this space for the bird to fly high but the bird can only look up with longing and sadness.
The Wise Men, during the first and long leg of their journey, which took them to the Herod’s royal palace, were like birds with a clipped wing. Those final 10 kilometers from Jerusalem to Bethlehem they were flying like sparrows, so fast. They were flying on both wings of faith and reason. When they ‘fell to their knees’ at the manger, as St Matthew tells us on this Day of Epiphany, they were like eagles rising to the highest heights for the human spirit. Their knees were buried in the dirt of the stable but their spirit was flying high.
My Dear Fellow believers! In our society which separates faith from reason, and very often even amputates faith, we are called to bear witness that both faith and reason come from the same source: God. In our society where so many people are like birds with clipped wings we are called to show that both ‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.’
What could we say about the recent bushfires if our wing of faith was clipped? God doesn’t exist. What could we say if our wing of reason was clipped? It is God’s punishment. However while greatly disturbed and horrified at the extend of the bushfires we also profess the presence of the God who knows what suffering is and by his presence offers his grace to transform us anew into a better community closer to each other and closer to him who transformed the Wise Men into Compassioned Believers who ‘returned to their own country by a different way’ because they didn’t want to endanger the Infant King and God to the brutality of Herod.