I’m sure none of us have battled windmills, but perhaps we have faced huge battles in our lives. Hopefully we have followed some belief system or core values to fight those battles with courage and dignity.
As people of faith, do we follow the Word made Flesh, Jesus of Bethlehem, the newborn King, no matter our own hopelessness, no matter how far?
This wonderful feast of the Epiphany brings us the manifestation of Jesus Christ. The dedicated faith of the wise men, to follow that star and to seek out the Messiah, was the first of three actions that made Jesus known to the whole world. This event, along with the Baptism of Jesus, which we celebrate next week and the Wedding Feast at Cana are the manifestations; the revelations of Jesus as the One who has come to save us; Jew and Gentile alike!
In recent days past we heard about others who were given a sign too and hastened to see the newborn king. The shepherds are in the fields and are visited by an angel and told about the birth of Jesus and instructed where to go and find Him. These wise men, the Magi, heard nothing; were given no instruction. But they saw a far distant star. Renowned as astrologers, the wise men also knew the Scriptures, the prophecies of what we call the Old Testament. In blind faith and deliberate obedience, without anyone else urging them on, they sought Jesus. A long and difficult journey, with no GPS or On Star, no creature comforts along the way, could not deter them from Christ.
And they find the Word made Flesh, the newborn King and they bring him the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts are more than symbolic. Gold to signify Jesus as King, frankincense to signify Jesus as Priest and myrrh, used as both a healing ointment and an embalming material, to signify Jesus as Savior, the Word of God born to die for our sins. But more than these gifts, the Magi brought worship, glorious worship of God in the person on the child Jesus.
We know that these wise men encountered Herod before arriving to worship Jesus. As they prepare to leave, now they are told not to return to Herod. The Gospel says, they returned by way of another route. Another route! Insignificant detail in today’s Gospel; I don’t think so. This detail should speak to all of us.
Once we have found Jesus in and for our lives, not by a physical journey but a spiritual journey whose destination is our most inner being, we can never stay on the route that the world invites us to travel. No, we must return, over and over again, by way of another route. That route, whose ultimate destination is indeed Jesus, that route will bring us where others never want to go. That route brings us to the sick and the lonely. That route brings us to the poor and the needy. That route brings us to the prison. That route brings us to those places that reject Jesus, the places that punish others if they preach Jesus. That route brings us to the homeless. That route brings us to even our own family and friends who we need to reconcile with or simply need us to tell them the good news of Jesus. And this route should bring us to church, not just on Sunday but any day; for adoration or confession or prayerful reflection. We must constantly travel home, like the wise men, by a different route. Like the wise men, we too will not need a GPS, Jesus is our guide, and our home is eternal.
In the week ahead, can we recalculate our life’s road map to take the other route; to follow that star? And no matter how hopeless, no matter how far can we trust in Jesus, who turns hopeless into hope and distance into intimate closeness.
This is my quest, to follow that star, to take that other route and follow Jesus always; no matter what!