We are continuing our study in Matthew Chapter Two:
7 Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them;
8 And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore him.
9 Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was.
10 And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.
So it says in Matthew 2:7:
"Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them;"
I am going to make a statement now and will try to prove it later: The star had appeared in the night sky sometime before the wise men appeared in Jerusalem. Remember that they made the trip by camel-not by jet plane. It is a long, hard trip by camel! I am of the opinion that they didn't arrive in Jerusalem until at least a year after the appearance of the star. This wasn't just a little Christmas celebration for them. As they traveled the long, weary miles, they had been hanging on to the hope of seeing Him and presenting their gifts to Him. Notice that Herod inquired "diligently" the time of the stars appearance in the sky. Keep that in mind. It will be an important fact later in the story.
So Herod sends the wise men on to Bethlehem as Matthew 1:8 says:
"And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore him."
He's being subtle as an old serpent, and that's exactly what Herod was. Suppose he had said, "If there's a king born around here, I'm going to get rid of him," and then had sent soldiers down to Bethlehem. I can assure you that he would never had found the child because he would have been hidden. He knew that the clever way and the bestway was to let the wise men go down and find the child and then come back and tell him. He said he wanted to go down and worship Him, but of course what he really wanted to do was to kill Him.
Now verses's 9-10:
"Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy."
Now the star appears again. I think they must have traveled a long time without seeing the star. That ought to answer the nonsense one hears today about their being a convergence of certain stars that happened at one particular time. St. Matthew makes it very clear that this star was a very unusual star; in fact, it was a supernatural star. It was miraculous, and we needn't try to find an explanation for it. Now, it might be , as many astronomers think, that there was quite a movement in the heavens at that time. When he came, heaven and earth both responded to His coming into the world I think such things did take place, but the wise men saw a supernatural star.
Now verse 11:
"And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
When they arrived, Jesus was not in the stable. The great movement of people in the city of Bethlehem had now all ceased. They had gone back to their homes because the enrollment was over. But this little Baby was newly born, and they couldn't move him for awhile. It is possible that such a trip for the Little One would have jeopardized His life. So they had stayed in Bethlehem and had moved into a house. The wise men found them in a house. Again, the Christmas cards show the wise men coming into the stable. Well, unless St. Joseph pointed out that stable to them, they never even knew where it was. They came to the house.
Please note that when they saw the young child with Mary His mother, they fell down and worshipped Him. If ever their was a time when Mary should have been worshipped, this was it. But they did not worship her- They were wise men. They worshipped Him. and presented to Him their treasures: gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Now do not get angry with me for what I just said. Protestant and other Christians outside of the Catholic Church wrongly say that the Catholic Church teaches that we should worship Mary. And although they are wrong about that, there is some grain of truth in what they say. There are some in our beloved Church that do just that. There are those who put her on the same level as God with there attitude and practices sometime. You never see Mary in scripture standing in the limelight. She always was in the background serving Her son and others.
Now for those who would suggest that we as Catholics are taught to worship Mary, let me read to you from and article written by Gary Zimack:
"As a Catholic, We are so blessed to be a member of the Church that truly honors and respects the Mother of our Lord and Savior. Before those outside the Catholic Church accuse us of worshiping Mary, I ask you to take a long hard look at five facts. They have a way of poking holes in the theory that we place too much emphasis on Mary. If you still want to accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary, then I suggest you ignore these facts!
1. God Sent The Savior Through Mary – I list this one first because it’s really tough to downplay Mary’s importance while acknowledging that the long awaiting Messiah came to earth by being born of a woman…and that woman was Mary. Out of all the ways that Jesus could have come to earth, why was Mary chosen? If Mary was important to God, shouldn’t she mean something to us?
2. Jesus Performed His First Miracle At Mary’s Request – This is another good one. Oh I know, Jesus didn’t need Mary to turn the water into wine at Cana. She just happened to be there. OK, why then did St. John list Mary FIRST in his list of wedding guests?
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage with His disciples. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. (John 2:1-2)
If Mary is not important in this saga, why is she listed BEFORE the apostles and BEFORE Jesus? St. John the Evangelist was not known for inserting extraneous details. Mary is listed first because John wants to call the readers’ attention to her presence at the wedding.
But what about “the rebuke”? You know, the argument that Jesus was telling Mary to “butt out” when He stated:
“And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come.” (John 2:4)
Jesus was a devout Jew and an obedient follower of the Ten Commandments. Why would He publicly dishonor His mother in violation of the Fourth Commandment? Secondly, if this was such a “put down” by Jesus, why did He go ahead and perform the miracle of changing water into wine? Wouldn’t that have been the end of the request. Of course it would, unless He wasn’t putting Mary down. When His mother interceded on behalf of the couple, Our Lord decided that His time had now come. Don’t you think Jesus is trying to tell us something? Isn’t is probable that Jesus waited until Mary’s request, in order to show us her intercessory power? Doesn’t that explain why St. John listed her first among the guests?
3. Jesus Gave Mary To John From The Cross – As He suffered and died on the Cross, Jesus made a very profound statement:
When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27)
Why, while struggling to speak as He hung on the Cross, would Jesus have spoken these words if they didn’t mean anything? Could He have been making small talk? Obviously, there was a reason that Our Lord did what He did. The Church has always believed that John represented each member of the Church and that, from that moment on, Mary became our spiritual mother. Scripture tells us that, on that day John accepted Jesus’ gift and “And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.” (John 19:27). Shouldn’t we do the same?
4. Jesus’ First Graces Were Given Through Mary – This is a fact that frequently gets overlooked by those who wish to downplay Mary’s importance…and it comes straight from the Bible! After accepting God’s offer to become the Mother of the Savior, Mary traveled “in haste” to visit her relative, Elizabeth.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:41)
According to this Bible passage, before Jesus was even born, Mary’s voice was used to deliver the graces to Elizabeth. Why? Because she’s not important? Isn’t there some other way, these graces could have been dispensed?
Not convinced? Listen to what Elizabeth had to say (also directly from the Bible)…
“For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44)
It’s pretty hard to deny the importance of Mary’s presence and voice in dispensing these graces to Elizabeth. Did the graces originate from Mary? No, they obviously came from Jesus. However, He chose to have Mary make the journey and use her voice to deliver them. Why? Because He wants us to realize that she is important!
(By the way God wants to use all of us to give graces to others by what we say and do. But Mary was the first we see in scriptures to have been used to dispense grace as an example to all of us.)
5. Jesus Christ Is The Sole Mediator Between God And Man – Now, this doesn’t make sense. How does this help to support the Catholic position? This is why we Catholics “have it all wrong”, isn’t it? Sorry but no. Catholics absolutely believe that Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man. This Catholic teaching is supported by the following Bible passage:
For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.(1 Timothy 2:5-6)
Although Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, that doesn’t preclude others (including Mary) from being involved in a subordinate mediation, or intercession. Saint Paul, who made the above statement, is obviously aware of that fact since he several times urges his readers to mediate and intercede in prayer for each other (Romans 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, 1 Timothy 2:1). This type of intercession is a participation in the intercession of Christ and is put into practice each time we pray for one another. Asking Mary to intercede for us in no way takes away from Jesus’ role as mediator between God and men for our salvation.
And now concerning the gifts that the Wise men had brought:
It is very interesting to study the facts concerning Jesus's second coming as they are related to us in Isaiah 60:6:
"The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense: and shewing forth praise to the Lord."
What gift is left out at His second coming? Myrrh! They do not bring Myrrh because that speaks of His death. when He comes the second time, nothing will speak of His death. Gold speaks of His birth. He is born a King. Frankincense speaks of the fragrance of His life. Myrrh speaks of His death. All of this is indicated in the gifts that were brought to Him at His first coming. But at His next coming myrrh will not be brought to Him. The next time He comes, He won't come to die upon a cross for the sins of the world. He will come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Now lets look at the last verse in our study today:
And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.
The Wise men had assumed that Herod was sincere and wanted to come down and worship Him. However, he would have killed the Child had not an angel of the Lord warned the Wise men to back to their own country by a different route. They may have continued south down to Heron, then crossed over south of the Dead sea, and thus they would be out of the range of Herod altogether.
Next week we will discus the Flight into Egypt that the Holy Family had taken.