"They returned home by another route."

A Missioners Reflection on the Journey of the Magi

Written by: Megan Kennedy-Farrell

One of my favorite stories in all of Scripture is the story of the Magi, the wise ones transformed by their experience of meeting the Christ child (Matthew 2:1-12). To me, this is the story of mission for all seekers, a story infused with elements of call and response, mission and transformation:

Travelers - Scholars don’t know much about the Magi, but it is generally agreed that they were foreigners hailing from another place and of a different culture, race and religion. In the story, these travelers set out on a journey to an unfamiliar place beyond their comfort zone. In much the same way, we as Solidarity Bridge missioners leave our places of comfort and familiarity when we journey to Bolivia, encountering a new land, culture, people and language.

Star - For the Magi, what motivated this likely difficult journey? “We saw the star at its rising,” the story says. They were responding to the call of the star. How many of us embark on our mission journey because of an inner (or outer) voice - our very own star - urging us to follow? Some scholars believe the Magi were astrologists, so perhaps the journey was clear to them. But, as may be true of our own mission and vocation responses, the story seems to imply they were not sure where they were going, or even why - just that they had to go. 

Encounter - The Magi say ‘yes’ to the call, and the star guides them to the place where the child is. They enter the house and encounter a newborn baby and his parents. This, too, is our story. Our ‘yes’ leads us to homes, clinics and operating rooms in Bolivia where we encounter fellow medical professionals, patients and their families. Like the Magi, we see God in vulnerable, human form - as one of us. 

Gifts - As they encounter the Christ child, the Magi are compelled to share their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  As missioners, we are compelled to share not only our gifts of healing, teaching, and equipping, but also learning, listening and being present. As theologian Donal Dorr writes of mission, “there is a two-way exchange of gifts, between missionaries and the people among whom they work...mission is not just a matter of doing things for people. It is first of all a matter of being with people, of listening and sharing with them.*” 

Transformation - “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they returned home by another route,” the story concludes. Perhaps the voices in our dreams are different, but our transformation at the end of a mission is no less dramatic. Our response to the call, our encounters on mission, and the sharing of our gifts change us deeply. And, if we truly heed this change, we cannot go home by the same route.

*Donal Dorr, Mission in Today’s World (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000), 16.

Megan Kennedy-Farrel is the Senior Director of Mission and Identity at Solidarity Bridge. She holds Masters degree in Religious Education from the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago and is deeply committed to a “faith that does justice.”