Flood Story...three people sent to save woman trapped in a flooding home. At death, she asks why God didn't save her. He replied, "I sent a policeman, fireman, and coast guard, what more did you want?
There are two lessons in that story. First, our possessions are not important. We may need things to get through life, but possessions are not as important, especially to God, as life. Second, and most importantly, God comes to us to help us, but do we recognize Him when He comes to help us?
The Epiphany is all about recognizing God. Recognizing God in Jesus Christ, and recognizing Jesus Christ whether He comes to us as an infant, a family member, a neighbor, a co-worker, a policeman, a fireman, someone from the Coast Guard, a stranger, or even in the appearance of bread and wine. We need to recognize Jesus in others – ALL OTHERS. God lives inside each of one us. St. Paul confirms this truth for us in our second reading today by telling us of his revelation that the Faith of Christ is also open to the Gentiles, or in other words, the love of God is for everyone.
In philosophy, no doubt you’ve heard Rene Descartes statement of “I think, therefore, I am.” Many scholars and theologians, including Pope John Paul II and Thomas Merton, believe Descartes had it backwards. If we consider “I am, therefore I think”, it’s more in the proper order, and it serves to recognize God in us and gift of life he has given us.
We begin to recognize Jesus by seeking Him. To seek Him we, like the Magi, must go on a journey. As children of God, we are all called by God to enter into that journey.
We can learn many lessons from the Magi. The Magi were called by God to go on their journey. There were called from their homeland, seeking a King to pay homage to. They left almost everything behind to seek out that which they were called to find. The Magi were going to complete their journey regardless of the dangers. No doubt they were surprised when they arrived at their destination and found the Holy Family, the King they had heard about, lying in a manger amidst animals in a stable. The magi had to realize, as a result of their journey that their lives would never be the same.
Our journey probably won’t be that dramatic or adventurous, but it could be. Regardless, we need to go on that journey not so much in a literal, but in a spiritual sense. We need to leave our selfishness behind and seek our true King. We need to follow God’s star and we will find our true selves in completeness and fulfillment, and we will never be the same.
I took my family to Philadelphia in search of a star. Unfortunately, it was my own star. I was more into my career and accomplishments and prestige for myself, than I was into what God had planned for me. When we reached our destination, arriving where the “star” led us, it turned out there was nothing, the manger was empty, and I learned that no matter what I did, without God in my life, I would never be able to fill that manger. By the grace of God, I found His star and it led me back to His manger, where I found, love, joy, peace, and my true calling to the diaconate, and I’ve never felt more fulfilled and complete. Challenged? Oh, yes, but I am able to meet the challenges of the diaconate through the fulfillment and completeness I’ve found in following God’s star. We cannot fulfill ourselves without God and we certainly cannot fulfill the mission God has for us without Him.
The magi give us another example in the giving of gifts to the infant Jesus. Let’s recall what the gifts of magi represented. The gold represented Jesus’ future Kingship, the frankincense represented Jesus’ future priesthood, and the myrrh represented Jesus’ future sacrifice.
We can also give God gifts. As I spoke of in the Christmas homily, we can give the gift of ourselves. But we need to realize that no matter what our gift is, we can never repay God or try to influence Him with our gifts. The gift of life God has given us is invaluable and it would be futile to try and repay God for it. In the same way, the debt of our sins is so great it would be ridiculous for us to try to repay it. However, we can give God small gifts of our affection and delight Him. For example, this Christmas my 5 year old son Matthew gave me this pen. It says “Major League Dad” on it. It may not be the world’s best made pen, and it was a fraction of the cost of my new golf clubs. But it was a gift that touched me very deeply. That my 5 year old son loved me enough to take the time and the effort to give me a small gift and let me know that I meant something to him meant everything to me. By taking our time, and making our efforts, we can delight God in that very same way and show Him that He means something to us in our lives.
WE are the magi. WE are called to make a journey. WE are called to change by seeking God no matter what the consequences. In the New Year, together we can seek God’s star and by following it, we will find a manger, which will give us a life full of hope, joy, and love.