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Following the footprints of the Magi

By David Gibson
Catholic News Service

So much shows in a person’s face. I’m sure this is one reason so many people head home for Christmas -- to see the faces of those they care about most.
Gazing into the faces of people we love has a way of reminding us not only of “who” they are, but “how” they are.
The face speaks; it has a language all its own.
The often unspoken “words” of this unique language can express affection, warmth, concern. Whether others are hopeful or not also may show in their faces.
The human face is a revelation. Of course, what the human face reveals is sometimes surprising in wonderful or disturbing ways. What we see in someone’s face may not be what we expected. Our encounter may prompt us to realize that our understanding of this person has room to grow. The encounter may change us.
This happened to the Wise Men from the East when they gazed into the face of the newborn Jesus. Matthew tells of their long, star-guided journey. The Magi expected to lay eyes on a newborn king, yet lo and behold, the Bethlehem stable was no palace.
What a surprise!
During the August 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of this surprise. Here the Magi were “bowing down before the child of poor people,” the pope observed.
The Wise Men found that God is not what they expected. The pope said this meant they had to become different themselves and “learn God’s ways”; they had to “learn to give themselves.”
“It is important to discover the true face of God,” the pope concluded.
This is a point Pope Benedict makes frequently, a theme of his pontificate. He speaks of the need “to rediscover God, not just any God but the God who has a human face.”
Recognizing God in the face of Jesus will change people, the pope believes.
The face of Jesus was a great revelation to the Wise Men. It was a revelation about God, what God is really like.
The face of Jesus also reminds us how much any human face is able to reveal. Gazing into the faces of others we think we know well, we may finally “see” what they actually need or grasp the value of the unrecognized gifts they could offer.
But there is one more set of faces to mention here, mine and yours. What do our own faces reveal to others?
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta might have encouraged us to recognize Christ’s face in others and to follow up by revealing our compassion to them. She might have called attention to the place for kindness in the human face.
During a time of year that heavily accents gift-giving, we could do worse than to reconsider the advice Mother Teresa once had for people who felt they had nothing to give to others. Just give them your smile, she said.

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