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The Fourth Wise Man
When we serve others, we are serving God
Based on Henry van Dyke's classic, The Story of the Other Wise Man, this fictional story set in Biblical times is told in gently comic terms. A Magi named Artaban (Martin Sheen) sees a sign in the heavens that he hopes will lead him and his faithful servant to the Messiah. Artaban takes with him three precious gifts to present to the Messiah. For 33 years Artaban pursues Jesus, only to miss Him at every turn.
Along the way, Artaban uses his gifts to help people in dire need. He now has nothing to present to the Messiah when he finds Him. The story culminates on Easter Sunday as Artaban, old and dying, finally encounters the new King, bringing peace to his life. A deeply moving experience examining what true faith really means.
Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me." — Matthew 25:40
The Other Wise Man is a short novel or long short story by Henry van Dyke. It was initially published in 1895 and has been reprinted many times since then.
The story is an addition and expansion of the account of the Biblical Magi, recounted in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It tells about a "fourth" wise man (accepting the tradition that the Magi numbered three), a priest of the Magi named Artaban, one of the Medes from Persia. Like the other Magi, he sees signs in the heavens proclaiming that a King had been born among the Jews. Like them, he sets out to see the newborn ruler, carrying treasures to give as gifts to the child - a sapphire, a ruby, and a "pearl of great price". However, he stops along the way to help a dying man, which makes him late to meet with the caravan of the other three wise men. Because he missed the caravan, and he can't cross the desert with only a horse, he is forced to sell one of his treasures in order to buy the camels and supplies necessary for the trip. He then commences his journey but arrives in Bethlehem too late to see the child, whose parents have fled to Egypt. He saves the life of a child at the price of another of his treasures.
He then travels to Egypt and to many other countries, searching for Jesus for many years and performing acts of charity along the way. After 33 years, Artaban is still a pilgrim, and a seeker after light. Artaban arrives in Jerusalem just in time for the crucifixion of Jesus. He spends his last treasure, the pearl, to ransom a young woman from being sold into slavery. He is then struck in the head by a falling roof tile and is about to die, having failed in his quest to find Jesus, but having done much good through charitable works. A voice tells him "Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40) He dies in a calm radiance of wonder and joy. His treasures were accepted, and the Other Wise Man found his King.
The story of Artiban is the story of many people in our world. Like Artiban, they begin life with the dream of doing something great. But as time passes circumstances beyond their control interfere with their dream. Eventually it disappears. Consider a talented woman who dreams of a professional career in business or art, but before she can launch her career, she meets someone and marries him. Soon they begin a family and as they do the young woman's dream gradually fades as did our demands. The woman ends up giving herself full time to her young family. The story of the woman could end here. If it did, some people would consider it a sad story. It would be the story of a woman who never realized her one big dream. But the story doesn't end here. It won't until some day in the future when Jesus says to the woman what he said to Artaban, "You've been helping me all your life. What you did for your family, you did for me."
The Solemnity of Epiphany reminds us that we all have a gift we can give to the King of Kings. And the story of the other wise man reminds us that our gift is far more precious than those of the other three wise men. Our gift is not a one-time gift of gold, frankincense or myrrh. It's a full time gift of love and service. Some people may consider us foolish for giving this gift, but that's only because they don't know the end of the story. The story will end with Jesus saying to us what he said to Artaban.
SOURCE: from the homily, "The Ohter Wise Man...Are You?" by Fr. Russ Harbaugh (SEE RELATED VIDEOS)
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