The prophet Isaiah in today's first reading gives the Israelite people a message of great hope. Instead of being a small nation which has been regularly conquered and stepped upon, one day they would be mighty people that all the nations of the world would come to honor and exult. This was a prophesy of great hope for a downtrodden people, one that would be fulfilled in a way they never expected.
The magi who came to find Jesus were wise men, learned men who were familiar with the stars in the sky and whose job it was to look for signs in the stars. They also would have likely been familiar with the Jewish longing for a Messiah, and would have recognized immediately that the star was leading them towards the land of the Jewish people. It would have been no surprise to them that the star was leading them towards that promised Messiah, the long awaited King of the Jews.
What would be a surprise for the Jewish readers of St. Matthew's Gospel is the willingness of these Gentiles to make the journey from Persia, in modern-day Iran. Here is the first sign of the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesy. These magi even brought two of the gifts mentioned in the prophesy: gold and frankincense. The visit of the magi were a sign to the Jewish followers of Our Lord that the Gospel message wasn't reserved to Jews alone, but to all the nations of the world. St. Paul tells us that the blessings to be bestowed on all nations, as promised by Isaiah, come through our sharing in the promised salvation of Christ.
Notice how Our Heavenly Father led the magi to Our Lord. Their occupation was to observe the night sky for any significant phenomena. God used their roles as astrologers who could interpret the signs in the sky to lead them to Our Lord. Through their work, they were drawn to Our Lord.
On our part, God is still calling us through our occupations to follow Him. In fact, He is constantly calling us to follow Him in our daily lives, every moment of every day. We just need to be open to the signs. Sometimes a sign is a coincidental occurrence that allows to act on His grace. Occasionally, it's a prompting that helps us to make a major decision in our lives that can be used to better serve Him and His people. No matter how these signs appear, we need to be aware of how He is working in our lives.
Once we are aware of God's call in our lives, are we willing to respond as the magi did? They knew that the King of the Jews proclaimed by the star was a newborn, and yet they were willing to travel long distances to find and honor Him. They didn't bring simple gifts to lay at His feet, but gave Our Lord the best gifts they could.
Are we going to allow our gifts to be used in the service of God, as the magi did, or are we going to give as little of ourselves as we can? We may not have to travel as far or with as much difficulty as the magi faced, but we still need the same commitment to Our Lord. Instead of giving a little time and effort, say once a week to attend Mass, we need to be willing to commit our entire lives and everything we have and are to follow Jesus and proclaim His Gospel to the whole world.
This is the challenge of the Christian life. It's one thing to say we're Christians, it's something completely different to live as Christ commands. When we pay homage to Our Lord and lay our gifts at His feet, as the magi did, He will use us in a way that will bring us greater joy than we can ever imagine. As the star called the magi to follow, Our Lord calls us to follow Him every day. May we hear His call and answer.