“Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we… have come to pay him homage” (Mt 2:1-2). The wise men found Jesus because they had such a strong desire to find Him. So, let’s meditate today on our desires, the ones God places in our hearts, and the ones that distract us from Him.
We’ve reflected a few times on the following quote from Fr. Jacques Philippe: “Ultimately, God gives us what we desire, neither more nor less” (Interior Freedom, 34). This doesn’t mean that, if we want a certain job, God will give it to us. It means that, if we ultimately search for truth, goodness, and beauty, we will receive it.
Psalm 37 puts it this way: “If you find your delight in the Lord, he will grant your heart’s desire” (v. 4, Grail). This is helpful for me because I realize how often I don’t find my delight in the Lord. I find my delight in earthly things, sometimes more than in Him! So, if we don’t find our ultimate delight in God, or if we find delight in sinful things, this would explain why, deep down, we don’t receive the best gifts from God. We might not be growing the way we want to in life because we don’t truly want what is good.
Another example is that people with weak faith actually choose that. God offers the gift of faith to all who seek it. And it’s the same with all virtues: If we want discipline, humility, purity, wisdom, the Holy Spirit will give them to us, because He wants to fill us with the best gifts.
1) When we meditate on the magi in the Gospel, the first truth we can extrapolate is their desire for God. They weren’t Jewish, but were looking for the true God, and so eventually, they found Him. Most scholars believe they’re from modern day Iran, so they didn’t use the Bible, but used what they had at their disposal: astronomy and philosophy. They were also aware of a widespread idea circulated at the time that the ruler of the world would come from Judah. Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges that, at the time of Jesus’ birth, there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, like a bright star. The point is that everyone saw it, but only the Magi set off to seek Jesus, because they desired Him.
2) The second truth to note is their sacrifice, in the fact that they made a journey of an estimated one month.
St. Augustine, in his work the City of God, says that there are two cities in this world: the city of God and the ungodly city. He writes, “Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former… glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience”. That first line is insightful: the earthly city is formed by love of self, even to the contempt of God. In other words, what we fundamentally choose all the time is ourselves, even to the point of disobeying or offending God. That’s why people who go to hell choose it. Ultimately, they want themselves, to the point that God is secondary—they don’t want Him, and so, in the end, all they have is themselves, without God, and that’s hell.
On the other hand, the city of God is formed by those who love God, even to the point that they sacrifice themselves. They’re always choosing God. They glory in Him! Fundamentally, they want to please God more than men. They always try to obey God’s speaking in their conscience—and that life is heaven.
3) The third truth is that we have no excuses for what we ultimately receive. Popular Christian tradition and piety have said that there are three wise men because they give Jesus three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It was also said that they came from the three known continents of that time: Europe, Asia, and Africa. Finally, each was said to represent the three phases of life: youth, maturity, and old age. The point for us is that, no matter our background or state in life, if we are ‘wise,’ as they were, then we can all find Christ. We shouldn’t make excuses for why we don’t receive Jesus.
God gives us what we need to find Him, starting with desire, and, like the wise men, we must choose Him. The Catholic author Matthew Kelly writes this: “Everything is a choice… [This] is a hard lesson because it causes us to realize that we have chosen the life we are living right now. It is perhaps frightening for us to think that we have chosen to live our life exactly as it is today. But it is also liberating… You have chosen to live this day… You have chosen to live in a certain city. You have chosen to believe certain ideas. You have chosen the people you call friends. You choose the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the thoughts you think” (The Rhythm of Life, 3-4).
God gives us everything we need to reach Him. And, if we ever lack anything, as we always do, He says, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7).
There are only two directions in life, towards God and away from Him. Therefore, be careful about desires that lead away from Him: desires to sin and superficiality. Instead, we can pray something like this: ‘Jesus, increase my desire for You. Jesus, increase my desire for holiness. Increase my desire to want what You want. Since I have free will, help me to choose You above all things.’
One of the most beautiful stories about desire comes from Poland in 1979. The Polish people suffered for years under the Nazi regime with millions killed, and then atheist communism came in and killed millions more. If all your life, you’ve known no hope, it would have been so easy for those people to give up against their government. However, when St. John Paul II was elected pope, he went back home to Poland and the fall of communism began: It began with a holy desire, and then the people chose to go in that direction. Please watch this minute-and-a-half video about June 2, 1979: St. John Paul II comes back, there’s this huge Mass at Victory Square, and the people begin spontaneously singing, ‘We want God,’ in total defiance of their government, and, after this event, people start opposing government-sponsored atheism and eventually win.
It makes sense that God gave Himself to the Polish people and they found Him, because a million people took risks to go in public to witness to Jesus, and then started singing, ‘We want God.’ Ultimately, God gives us what we want, no more no less.