By Rev. Philip Hearn St. Mary’s-St. Peter’s Parish, 105 E. Liberty St.

We live during a time both of peril and of opportunity. This is readily evident in the many millions who go hungry, the widening gap between the rich and poor, and the pollution of the environment, which can threaten life itself. Despite such problems, technological and scientific innovation have brought great advances. There are new medical treatments that have helped stop the spread of many communicable diseases, and have extended the human life span in many countries. Other technological advances have made it possible for people to communicate from all corners of the planet.

So the question is: What does the future hold and what are the best ways to address the problems before us?

Though what the future holds is shrouded in mystery, we can be confident there are solutions to the problems that confront us. These solutions, however, may require a different way of thinking and living. Many of the solutions to today’s problems are spiritual in nature. They are based on trust in God and his love for us.

Believing that God continually helps us and provides for our needs is one reason we gather in church each week. We celebrate and give thanks to God for revealing the coming of his son among us — the world’s true savior and light — by the guidance of a star. The magi we read about in our gospel are traditionally referred to as the wise men from the East. They saw a star in the sky that they had not seen before. They believed this star signaled that a very important person, a great king, had been born. So they set out on a long journey, following this star, to find him and pay him homage.

The journey of the magi speaks of the yearning of the human heart to find a higher wisdom. A brighter light that can pierce the darkness of the world and bring hope, healing, peace and salvation. The magi were seekers of truth and persevered on their journey. They found the Christ Child and offered him their gifts. In a sense, they can be seen as representing the whole world, acknowledging the birth of the King of Heaven and Earth.

King Herod, on the other hand, was not so gracious. Upon hearing of the birth of someone who was to be King of the Jews, Herod seems to have been startled and threatened. We might see King Herod as representing the fallen part of our human nature. This is the part of ourselves that wants to advance our own position in the world and satisfy our own desires, with little regard for anyone or anything else.

In a sense, the magi and King Herod can remind us of a basic choice that is presented to each of us: are we going to seek the truth, seek God, and open ourselves to Jesus, or to choose to go it alone?

Let us pray that we will each open our heart more fully to Christ. Let us seek his light and love, so that they may shine more brightly through us and touch the lives of others. In this way, we will know the joy and peace found in Jesus, while also helping humankind to live in greater harmony with God and one another.