Journeys into the Unknown


By Sister Marianne Burkhard, OSB

The 3 wise men who appear in Bethlehem from the Orient have always fascinated me. I see them mainly as spiritual seekers.

With all that they had gathered over their years in knowledge and experience – practical, scientific, secular, religious – they knew that there was yet something that was lacking in their lives.

One day they found this prophecy of a newborn king of the Jews, announced by a star, and realized that their search for deeper meaning had found a direction and an irresistible attraction.

So they set out into the unknown, and the star – with some unwitting help from Herod – led them to a place that had no great reputation in the world. But they saw the mother with the child and were able to see and believe.

For me this is a central message in this story: though they were looking for a king, they were graced to recognize the answer to their search in an ordinary baby in an ordinary house with ordinary parents – a baby who yet had to grow up in order to tell them and us about the kingdom of God that is at hand, that is and will always be, truly among us.

How does this relate to us, to me and you?

It tells us that we need to listen to our desire that hankers after something more, be it a fuller meaning of our lives, a better answer to our life’s main questions, a deeper spirituality, or some peace in our greatest sorrow.

Knowing that we are not yet satisfied, that we want to find more is already a grace, an important motivation.

The search may be long, yet when our desire is true, its star will keep us going, help us discern along the way.

The end is unknown – and as the wise men discovered, it may be in a place we had not expected at all, or that we would never have sought out intentionally.

But when we come upon this ‘thing,’ this promise, this meaning – be it a new job, a new relationship, a religious call, a community we did not know existed – we will know it, however unlikely its place, its form, its message.

At the beginning of a new year, these wise seekers tell us again to trust our desire to go deeper, to search for an answer that will give greater depth to our lives and help us to unify our thinking, feeling and hoping.

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