Jesus, the Word of God.

Jesus quoted no one. He spoke from his own authority.
The Gospel of John picks up the source of Jesus’ authority from the beginning line of his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). Jesus Christ is the Word, the Logos in Greek. Who would have more authority to speak about the word of God, than the Logos, the Word, himself?
The authority of Jesus was not only limited to teaching but restoration. As he was teaching in the synagogue he expelled the unclean spirit of a man when he said, “Quiet! Come out of him” (Mk 1:25)! Time and again we read accounts of Jesus healing and exorcising demons with his word.
If you haven’t read the Bible ever, have not for a long time, or have been away for a while, I invite you to read the Gospel of Mark. Along with prayer, reading the Gospels is a way to come to know Jesus and experience his authority in our lives. You may do so along with the Church as we are reading the Gospel daily or at your own pace, say five to ten minutes a day. What may be even better is to read a short section at a time and meditate on the passage read.
Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels, it is quick moving, and action-packed. The Gospels lend themselves particularly well to visualizing the text, and placing yourself in the reading as if you were watching a movie. See what Jesus wants to reveal or communicate to you in the silence of your heart.
We can also receive a word or phrase and carry it with us through the day, such as from today’s account. We may not be dealing with being possessed, but if we are experiencing pressure, temptation, feeling indecisive or divided we can call on Jesus’ words and speak in his name, “Quiet!” or “Peace be still!” and receive through the authority of his word his healing presence within us.
We do not have to journey alone this day. We have the gift of prayer and the Word of God to help us to remember that Jesus is present with us, helping us to continue his mission which is to help us and others to be aware that the kingdom of God is at hand!
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Photo: Jesus makes himself known to us in his Living Word proclaimed and lived in our lives!
Link for today’s Mass reading for Tuesday, January 12, 2021

“Repent and believe in the Gospel.” When we do, we will experience the joy of reconciliation with God and each other.

“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15).
With these words as recorded by Mark, Jesus begins his public ministry in time and space and we in 2021 begin the first week of Ordinary Time together. Whether we are in the season of Christmas, Easter, or Ordinary Time, each day is an opportunity to be thankful and celebrate our life for this continues to be “the time of fulfillment”. The Kingdom of God is still at hand because Jesus is still present with us.
We are not alone on our journey. The Son of God became human, as we just celebrated this Christmas season, and as we will celebrate in Easter, he died and rose again. This was no mere resuscitation like with Lazarus who rose and died again. Jesus conquered death and became the firstborn of the new creation. Ordinary Time is the season in which we not only study the life and teachings of Jesus but hopefully continue to be willing to be conformed to his Body and the will of his Father through the love of the Holy Spirit.
One of the things that may hold us back from embracing the gift of the Kingdom of God in our midst is that we have often chosen to place our focus on ourselves first before God and others. Jesus calls us to reorient our lives in urging us to repent, to turn away from the false reality that we are the center and author of our own lives, such that we come to realize the truth that God is our true author and director. To repent also means to open ourselves to his love, to place our trust in him, and to be assured that God accepts us as we are, right now at this very moment.
We do not repent so that God will love us. We do not have to do anything or act perfectly or say the right prayer for God to love us, we just need to “move the Lord out of the category of ‘polite company’ and into that of intimate friend to whom one can tell everything” (Barry 1987, 55). To repent means to turn back to the God whose arms are wide open ready to embrace us. It is we who have turned away from him. Let us turn back at this moment to our loving God and Father so that we can receive the forgiveness, mercy, and love that he offers us.
As we begin our journey into Ordinary Time together, let us recommit our lives to God by receiving his invitation to walk together side by side. Jesus encourages us to resist limiting God and the possibilities he places before us. Instead of attempting to bend his will to ours, may we allow the love of the Holy Spirit to expand our hearts and minds such that we will trust God more and be like a pencil in his hand.
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Photo: accessed from https://www.pexels.com/@belle-co-99483
Barry, S.J, William A. God and You: Prayer as a Personal Relationship. NY: Paulist Press, 1987.
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, January 11, 2021

We follow Jesus and the Apostles when we say yes to living out our baptismal vows each day.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the ending of the Christmas Season. From the timeline of the synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke, this is a significant step in the life of Jesus. After his baptism, he immediately goes into the desert for forty days and following then he will begin his public ministry.
It is good to occasionally reflect on our baptismal vows. Though we are not able to do so now because of the protective protocols in place because of the pandemic, each time we enter the church, we dip our fingers into the Holy Water. We then bless ourselves with the signing of the Cross. We participate in this act to affirm that we choose again to live by the baptismal vows made on our behalf by our parents and Godparents.
In reflecting in this way, we may see this feast as important to us as well. Jesus was not participating in baptism as an act of repentance, he was joining in solidarity with us in our fallen and sinful nature, while at the same time affirming that we are not destroyed by sin but only wounded. Jesus came to redeem us, to save us, to help to reconcile our fractured relationship with his Father.
We recall and celebrate this reality that the Son of God, non-being, Infinite Act of Existence, became a finite, human being and then even assumed our sinfulness, while remaining sinless himself. The pure, unblemished, Lamb of God began the process that would end in his death on the cross. He was willing to participate in John’s baptism, in his crucifixion because he loved his Father and was willing to follow his Father’s will all the way. He was willing to show unconditional love for us, by giving his life for us, not because we are perfect, but in our imperfection.
We have choices each and every day, each and every moment to make. We can turn our back on God our Father and listen to false promises, apparent goods, and give in to temptations and diversions that may satisfy for the moment but leave us empty over time. We can live a life for our self alone working toward an eternity of eternal separation from the one who loves us more than we can ever know. Or, we can choose to participate in the plan that God has for us and to follow Jesus in the way he has revealed. We can actualize our potential and experience the joy and meaning of a life of fulfillment that is working toward a life of eternity with God while at the same time helping others to do the same.
How come Jesus never sinned? Because he never said no to his Father, he always said yes. Jesus’ baptism made a difference for us not for him. He took upon our sin as he would do again on the Cross. Our Baptism, in which we were indelibly marked, eternally conformed to Jesus, made a difference. But our Baptism, our being born again, born from above, is just the beginning. God the Father has a part for us to play in bringing about his kingdom. It does not matter how small. We are called to be holy, we are called to be saints. Each and every one of us, each and every day, are invited to say yes to God’s will and commit to playing our part in salvation history.
We are not alone in this endeavor. The saints in a stained glassed window, with the light shining through, are not just there for adornment. They are examples and reminders of those, who sinners and imperfect like us, made a decision one day that their baptism mattered, that they were going to say yes to God, that day, and each day that followed. They allowed the light of Christ to shine through them to others. We can do the same, as the saints cheer us on. The Father and the Son have also sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to empower us through his love, to give us the guidance, the ears to hear, and the courage to act. All that needs to happen for us to begin and continue to live out our baptismal call is to say yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day, and in each moment to the will of our Loving God and Father.

Photo: Stained glass window of Jesus and the Apostles, taken at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles.
Link to today’s Mass reading for Sunday, January 10, 2021

When we follow God’s will for our life we will experience joy.

“So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”(Jn 3:29b-30).
How could John be feeling joy with decrease? This is counter to what many aspire to in our country. Aren’t we supposed to obtain more, be more popular, and not rest on our laurels if we are to be happy? If our end goal is, fame or honor, wealth, power, and/or pleasure, then yes that would be true. But John is giving us an insight here about what brings us real joy.
True joy comes from within when we have found our meaning and purpose in life, our mission. John was clear about his mission. John came to prepare the way of the Lord. He experienced this from the time when he leaped in the womb when Mary first arrived to see Elizabeth. From that moment, he was preparing the way for Jesus and continued to do so into his adult life. He was not distracted by how many people he was or was not baptizing, but he was focused on preparing people to be ready for the coming of the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29).
John is not threatened by Jesus as was Herod, he is overjoyed that the time of fulfillment had come. What John had been called to do by God he had been doing. The reality that Jesus increased and John decreased brought John joy because this was the fulfillment of his mission. How many of us get to experience the fruits of our labor?
If we want to be happy, experience joy, and be fulfilled in our life, then following the lead of John the Baptist is a pretty good way to start. I do not ne essarily mean selling off everything and living in the wilderness. The important point is that John cultivated a relationship with God. He came to know his voice, was open to his direction, acted on God’s leading, found confirmation, and became clear of the part he was to play in salvation history.
Each and every one of us has a specific role to play in God’s plan. We come to understand our mission by slowing down and becoming consciously aware of the relationship God is inviting us to participate in. As we do so we also experience the Holy Spirit who “impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission” (Francis 2014, 48).
Even in the midst of this pandemic over the past year, with many adjustments and common weariness, I still enjoy teaching. Through interactions with my colleagues and students, I encounter Jesus each day and bear witness through the love that I experience. Teaching has been and continues to be a significant part of the mission the Holy Spirit has called me to participate in. I am also glad that I am able to do so through these reflections online as well. There have been many evenings in which my body was ready to head for the land of dreams but I have found joy in putting together one more reflection on the Gospel of the day to share.
When we make the time to listen, we will hear and begin to recognize the voice of Jesus in the silence of our hearts, we will better discern where we are placing our time and energy, as well as better examine how God is inviting us through his creation, our experiences, and relationships. As we step out and risk, following the lead of the Holy Spirit, decrease and allow Jesus to increase within us, he will not only confirm for us but provide us with the means to accomplish our mission.
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Photo: My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready. I will sing, I will sing your praise. Awake my soul, awake lyre and harp. With joy I will awake the dawn (cf Psalm 57).
Pope Francis. The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014.
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, January 9, 2021

Are we as willing as Jesus to come close.

The man in today’s Gospel scene takes a tremendous risk by approaching Jesus. He is a leper and so considered unclean. The appropriate response when someone was coming into his general vicinity was to give as wide a berth as possible, if not remove themselves from view, or to make themselves known to be unclean to any passerby.
This state of uncleanness was not a mere sense of hygiene. This was considered ritual impurity. So anyone touching or being touched by a leper would be considered unclean. For this reason, lepers were ostracized from family, friends, and the larger community socially as well as being forbidden to worship. This is a horrific state to find oneself in, for as human beings we are social beings who want to belong, to be a part of, and to be loved.
The leper cast aside all social norms and fell prostrate before Jesus and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean” (Lk 5:12). Jesus knew full well the social norms, and it is very telling that not only did Jesus heal the man, but he did so by placing his hand on the man. He could have easily said, “I do will it. Be made clean” (Lk 5:13), without touching him and the man would have been healed. There are Gospel accounts of Jesus doing just that.
Jesus says more in his willingness to touch the leper than he does even with his words of healing. He does not keep the man at a distance but instead places himself on the same level as the man. Neither does Jesus become unclean, but the man becomes clean. The tremendous stigma of him having to be separated from something as simple, yet as significant, as a human embrace is removed. With that simple touch, Jesus comes close and in doing so, the man will no longer be kept at arm’s length but restored to his community and the opportunity for fellowship.
This is what the Son of God has come to do. He has come close to all of us. He has become human so we can see the face of God. We can experience the tenderness of his touch, and being understood when no one else can or is willing to do so. Jesus has come close so that we know that we are not alone, that we are loved more than we can ever imagine, more than we can ever mess up, more than our worst mistakes, or sins. Jesus has come close so we can experience how it feels to belong, to be loved and cared for as we are. Having received this wonderful gift, we are then to come close to those who for too long we have kept at arm’s length so we can love them as Jesus has loved us.
One way forward from our present distrust and division is to sit with and experience one another, even while running the risk that we will be offended or offend, but all the while, being committed to staying the course and developing relationships. When we are willing to see each other as human again, to come close, to hold each other accountable, and to respect each other even when we disagree, then we might begin to see healing and hope for reconciliation, love, and unity.
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Photo: Logo from the Leprosy Mission in Australia
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, January 8, 2021

Can we now begin to work together and choose love over hate?

He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
Jesus, who had just sat down, spoke these words to his hometown congregation in Nazareth who had just heard him read the passage from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus proclaimed that he was the one to whom Isaiah was talking about. Luke chose to place this event as the starting point of Jesus’ public ministry, of bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to the captives, recovering sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming a year acceptable to the Lord (Lk 4:18-19).
This message of universal healing for all of humanity, restoration, and reconciliation for all people would be the mission of Jesus. He presents to his hometown folk the message that he would be the vehicle to bring the love and redemptive work of his Father to all the nations, to invite all people to be aware of the reality present to them: that God his Father is inviting all into communion and relationship. The poor mentioned were not just in reference to those experiencing material poverty, but also to those finding themselves on the margins of society, the outcasts, those on the peripheries. The captives were not only those imprisoned for debts or crimes but those bound in the chains of their own sin and addiction. The blind were not only those who could not physically see but those who experienced the spiritual blindness of pride and arrogance. The oppressed were not just those under the iron fist of totalitarian and dictatorial regimes, but those pressed down through their own self imposed anxieties and fears.
In what ways are we in need of Jesus’ teaching, healing, and restorative power? What is keeping us on the peripheries, apart from communion and fellowship? What sins and addiction keep us bound, what fears and anxieties keep us oppressed? What is keeping us blind to the reality that God is in our midst and seeking a deeper relationship with us? Today we hear or read again Jesus’ words proclaimed in the Gospel. Jesus invites us to be healed and to align ourselves with his will and ministry of loving service to others.
The events of the storming of the Capitol show that we still need to hear the same words that Jesus spoke to the people of his own hometown. Are we willing to listen? Will we hold on to our biases and prejudices, to our tribe, our nation, our political party at the cost of losing our integrity, reason, and dignity? Or can this be an opportunity to see our darkness on full display? Will these events help us to be more open to the gift of our uniqueness as individuals, the richness of our human diversity while at the same time recognizing that we truly are all interconnected? Have we had enough division and polarization?
The Psalmist stated that, “From fraud and violence he will redeem them” (Psalm 72:14) and John wrote, “whoever does not love a brother [or sister] whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). With these words from today’s readings we can begin again. We can examine our consciences, turn to God with a contrite, sorrowful heart for what we have done and what we have failed to do.
As we do so may we experience the healing hands of Jesus on our bowed heads and the warmth of his forgiveness and love pouring through us as we are purged from our sin and pride. Then, in recognition of how much suffering and pain is present in our country and world, we can open our hearts and minds to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to participate with him in choosing love over hate, bringing the invitation of healing and reconciliation to others, and committing to bringing about an “acceptable year of the Lord” in 2021 (Lk 4:19).

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Photo: Fr. Ed, friend of over 30 years, and myself just before my ordination. He taught me to have the Bible in one and and The NY Times in another.
Link for the Mass readings for Thursday, January 7, 2021

The very desire to pray is already prayer.

And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray (Mk 6:46). We often read in the Gospels that Jesus went off by himself to pray. I am sure this was not a practice that he began during his public ministry, but one that he learned and developed from Mary and Joseph. The Apostles themselves witnessed Jesus praying, and in the account of Luke 11:1, one of his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.
Pope Francis in a general audience he gave in 2013 shared that, “the Church is apostolic because she is founded on the preaching and prayer of the apostles” (Francis 2014, 37). Jesus prayed, he taught his Apostles to pray, and we are at our best when we are people of prayer. We hear of prayer and that we need to pray, but what is prayer and how do we pray?
That we even desire to pray, that we even want to be closer to God is already a prayer. This is true because we are experiencing an invitation from God to draw close to him, to develop a relationship with him, to come to know the one who knows us better than we know our self. God is ever and always present.
Fr. William Barry in his book, God and You, describes how prayer is becoming consciously aware of our relationship with God. This helps to counter the idea that God is like a gumball machine in the sky, we just need to say the right types of prayers, be good, say them in the proper order and we will get what we want, we will be happy. “God is in relationship with each and every created thing in the universe and in relationship to the whole of it… whether that being is aware of the relationship or not.” The amazing thing about God is that “he will not force himself on us. He continually tries to arouse our awareness and interest in him” (Barry 1987, 12-13).
God reaches out to us in so many ways such as a majestic sunrise or sunset, the ebb and flow of the waves on a beach, and the brilliant radiance of a starlit sky. He can also do so through our trials of sickness, pain, others who are being hurt, or encountering injustice, he is also present through our every day relationships and experiences. The key is to be aware of what is being stirred up within us when we experience something and allow ourselves to “wonder about the experience and its meaning” (Barry, 13).
What is most important regarding becoming people of prayer is our awareness, our becoming conscious that we have a relationship with God. “This relationship is based on God’s actions to establish it and his desire that we become conscious of who he is and wants to be for us. Our consciousness depends on our willingness to pay attention to God’s actions, or at least to experiences that might be actions of God, and to let our desires for God be aroused” (Barry, 14).
Another question that Fr. Barry answers regarding prayer is that if God knows everything about us, why bother to pray at all? God is not just wanting information, he is inviting us to participate in a relationship. He wants to know whether we believe he cares how we feel and whether we are willing to let him in, to let him know what we feel and desire. We need to be honest in our dialogue of prayer and be willing to reveal something of ourselves, while at the same time, be open and willing to allow God to reveal what he seeks to reveal to us. This is how we build authentic relationships with God and each other (cf. Barry, 15).
Jesus, you invite us in so many small ways each day, though often, we allow our harried pace, distractions, temptations, and hard hearts to lead us away or block us from the gift of your presence. Please help us to slow down and rest in the wonder that God our Father is present to us and how the Holy Spirit is working in our life each and every day. Help us to realize we do not need to be perfect to come to you, to say the right words to be heard by you, nor to feel that we have to say any word at all, but we can just rest in your loving gaze. Help us to be conscious, to be aware of how much God cares about us, that God is interested in how we feel and what we think, that he cares. Help us to remember that we are all called to be holy, to be saints, to be mystics because you call each and every one of us to be in a relationship with you.
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Photo: Fr. William Barry, SJ, (accessed from americamagazine.org) who went home to God this past December 18, 2020 at 90. May he now be at rest in God’s loving embrace.
Barry, William A. S.J. God and You: Prayer as a Personal Relationship by William Barry SJ. New York: Paulist Press, 1987.
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, January 8, 2020

May we surrender to the love of God and love as we have been loved.

We can observe two movements of Jesus going out to serve others in today’s Gospel. The first is evident in the beginning verse: “When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (Mk 6:34). Jesus witnessed their deeper, spiritual hunger. The crowd gathered around Jesus for they were hungry, yet they were not even aware of the depth of their hunger.
Surely, they heard the accounts of Jesus preaching with authority, his healings, and exorcisms. They wondered if he could be the Messiah, the one who had been promised, present now in their midst. Yet, for the vast number of them, if not all gathered, they sought a leader, that Jesus was not. He was not to be a mighty military leader, he would not train his followers in guerilla warfare, and Jesus would not conquer the Roman occupation with might.
After his teaching, the time grew late and he and his disciples were aware of the hunger of the crowd. The disciples only saw the five loaves and two fish that were present, barely if enough to feed the Twelve, let alone the vast multitude. Their first instinct was to send them on their way such that they could fend for themselves. Jesus, who knew the Father, knew there were no limitations to his providential care. Jesus: Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves and gave them to [his] disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all (Mk 6:41).
Jesus shepherded and provided nourishment for five thousand men, so if that number was not including women and children, the number could have been easily doubled, and all ate and were satisfied (Mk 6:42). Jesus was aware of their deepest needs and provided for them. Jesus knew their spiritual hunger as well as their physical hunger, better than those who came to listen to him.
Are we so different today? We think we know what we need, but how many times are they really wants, apparent goods, and/or substitutes for what we truly hunger for deep down? We continually strive to be autonomous, self-sufficient, able to control and govern our own affairs. We witness this when the disciples wanted to send off the people to get their own food, and they would deal with the meager amount they had. Yet, this is counter to who we have been created to be.
Jesus showed his disciples time and again the way of God was not self-sufficiency, but self-surrender. They were and we are to place our complete trust in and reliance on God. We are to allow ourselves to be loved by God and so love others in return. This is not an emotion but an act of the will, of being aware of another in their time of need. We are to expand beyond ourselves, be present, and allow God to happen through us. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). May we turn our heart and mind to God daily so to receive and savor his love, so to be moved with compassion, to love, and to serve him in one another in turn.

Photo: All together
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, January 5, 2020

The light of Jesus reveals that which we need to repent from.

In yesterday’s Gospel reading we celebrated the Epiphany, in which the three magi encountered Jesus. They left changed, no longer following a star to find a king, but bearing the light of Christ from their encounter. Next Sunday we will recall the Baptism of Jesus by John. Today the daily readings jump ahead to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist has been arrested. He must decrease as Jesus increases.
Jesus inaugurates his ministry echoing the words of John’s ministry: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). John prepared the way for the Kingdom to come, Jesus himself in his person is the Kingdom of heaven. Heaven is not so much a place but a state of communion with God, and who better to embody the reality of heaven than the Son of God in our midst. He who remained fully divine, in communion with his Father, while becoming human and living among us.
Jesus proclaimed his promise of the Kingdom to his people who were suffering. He is the one who has been promised. Jesus is the fulfillment of their greatest hope. Matthew summarized the ministry of Jesus thus: “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people” (Mt 4:23).
Jesus provided hope and healing to those who were losing hope, struggling, and in pain. Jesus taught the way, the truth and the life with authority, providing light amidst their darkness. He did so through not only being the Kingdom in their midst, not only being their light to guide their way, but also being the way, the truth, and the life embodied. He empowered and freed them from their slavery to the sin that kept them bound. He helped them to see that they could not be enslaved by anyone or anything. Jesus helped the people to see that what kept them bound was their separation from God.
Jesus did not only come to the people of Galilee two thousand years ago. His message and person is meant for everyone. Jesus proclaims his message again to us today, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). There is no better new year’s resolution to begin with than this! Jesus is still present to us, providing hope and healing, providing his presence of love and mercy, providing his teaching which shines a light in our darkness. He is empowering us to receive his gift so that we too can rise up freed from our slavery to our own selfishness and sin. May we decrease so to allow Jesus to increase. In this way, we too will bear Christ and empower others as we provide the same presence of his love, mercy, and forgiveness with those in our midst.

Photo: Made some time to take an evening walk just before sunset.
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, January 4, 2021

The light that led the Magi can lead us as well.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Mt 2:1-2).
At some point as they approached Jerusalem, the magi lost track of the star, did it become cloudy, did they close in on the city during the day, or did they believe it was the proper protocol that in entering the city they ought to check in with Herod first before proceeding? We do not know. Somehow, these magi were led by a star with the belief that they were to pay homage to the king of the Jews in a distant land.
What drew them from their home miles away? What inspired them to leave the comfort of their everyday routine? This was no easy journey, and it was a risky adventure. Yet something or someone inspired them, invited them to come. They said yes. And though they were misdirected for a time, when they left the audience of King Herod and resumed their pilgrimage, they again saw the star and were “overjoyed” (Mt 2:10).
That joy must have multiplied when they prostrated themselves before the baby king, the one for whom they risked all and sought for. They had now found. In reality, their journey had only begun. Their lives would be forever changed and they would go back a different way than they came. The magi would not return to Herod, nor would they return to their home quite the same. They would not return from this journey and just go back to business as usual. The magi carried within them their encounter with the Christ; the light that drew them, they now carried inside of them.
They would proclaim him in the East. The magi did what they were called to do, to encounter the Christ and bring his light to the world. They and those who followed the same invitation are why we are still able to hear this same message today.
Today is the feast of Epiphany, and it is on this day that we celebrate that the King of the Jews, Jesus the Christ, has made his salvation known to the whole world. The manifestation of God’s glory came to the Jews first as the chosen people of God and then to all the Nations. The Son of God has become one of us and one with us so that all people are given the offer to be saved.
We too are invited. We like the magi are called to put the light of Christ first in our life. Let us seek each day to encounter him and his plan. Distractions, diversions, and temptations, anxieties and anticipations as well as many appealing and apparent goods will attempt to lead us astray, yet to put Jesus first will help all other priorities to fall into their proper order and place.
Bishop Robert Barron in his book, To Light a Fire on Earth, writes about becoming part of God’s “Theodrama”, using the Swiss theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar’s term. God is directing all of creation, all of the cosmos, and each of us to play our part. “The key”, Bishop Barron writes, “is to find the role that God has designed for us, even if it looks like a bit part… When, through faith, we see every moment and every creature as an ingredient in the divine plan, when we know that there is a gracious providence at work in the universe, we live in joyful surrender and with a great sense of wonder.”
This is what the Epiphany is about. Jesus manifesting his light to us so that we can finally come to see that we are not the center of the universe, but he is. “When we decenter the ego, and live in exciting and unpredictable relationship to God, we realize very clearly that our lives are not about us. And that’s a liberating discovery” (Barron 2017, 164-165).
May we follow the lead of the magi, and prostrate ourselves before our Lord and Savior. Let us lay face down and surrender to him our ego and self-centered way of life. Let us acknowledge and let go of those things that prevent us from deepening our relationship with God and one another. When ready, we will rise again forever changed, heading forth in a different way to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord!
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Photo: The Magi following the star accessed from http://www.free-hdwallpapers.com/wallpapers.com
Barron, Robert and John L. Allen Jr. To Light a Fire on the Earth. New York: Image, 2017.
Link for today’s reading of the Mass for Sunday, January 3, 2021