The Epiphany of the Lord 2012

Who were they, these three men we call magi? Were they kings?  Popular tradition refers to them as the three kings, and maybe they were.  Certainly, their gifts were those one king would offer to another. Sometimes they are referred to as astrologers in the sense that they studied the sky looking for signs. Perhaps, they were more astronomers than astrologers. Anyway the most important thing is that they were wiser than most men, why? Well because they left everything to look for a king, they left their lands, their comforts, and finally they get the Savior whose birth was announced by the star[1].

And what about the King Herod? Who was he? Well, he was to be known as Herod the Great. His son, Herod Antipas, would be the king who would put John the Baptist to death and mock Jesus[2].         

Today we have a gospel full of contrasts, or at least characters that are very different but represent us. Herod was a man of the political world, fiercely holding onto his power. The magi were men devoted to finding the King announced by the star, even though they did not know who this King was or exactly where the star would lead them. Herod was a Jew in name but a pagan in all things. The Magi were pagans in name, but acted like sincere Jews seeking the One who was the summit of God’s Plan for mankind.

Sixteen centuries later, the mystic and doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross, would reflect on his own life in a way that was similar to the lives of the magi as well as the lives of all who seek the Lord.  He wrote, «I went without discerning and with no other light except for that which in my heart was burning»[3].

            Well, like magicians and like John of the Cross, we too are on a journey. On a trip to Christ. Where exactly are we going to find Him? We really don’t know. He may be in marriage. He may be in the priesthood or religious life. He may be in children and Teens. He may be in a career. He may in our caring for a sick spouse or relative. He may be in the outcasts who reach out for us. He is in all these and countless more places. If we are wise, we will spend our lives seeking Him out, wherever He is. And yes, we might get sidetracked. Yes, we might find ourselves seeking Him in the wrong place, like in the palace of King Herod. We may start a career that is wrong for us. We may have to break a relationship that is unhealthy for us. But if we are attuning to God’s Word, He will set us straight and direct us to the course we need to follow. We will all get to our Bethlehem’s if we are open to God’s call.

 “Where am I going with my life?” that’s a very good question. Make it several times a day! My brother, my sister, take good habit, custom, to question everything, to find everything, doubt everything. Doubt in the best sense, in the sense of seeking the truth. Ideally, our answer should be, “I am going to Jesus, wherever He might be.”  Until now none of us has arrived at the goal of fully embracing the Lord. We need to keep searching for Him throughout our lives.  After all, our lives are journeys of love, there are always new places to find love.

And let me tell you something: at times the journey is difficult. We are called to be moral in an immoral society. We are called to stand for life in a society of death. We are called to embrace the joy of the Lord in a society that exalts in hatred. It is easy for us to give up and to give in. however we do not travel alone, certainly we have to take the big decisions in our life alone, but God is always with us, we are always guided by an interior star which is the voice of God.  And we go like the great John of the Cross: “without discerning and with no other light except for that which our hearts is burning.”

Let us pray together this morning and let us celebrate this mass asking for the wisdom to seek the Lord ■

[1] Sunday 8th January, 2012, the Epiphany of the Lord. Readings: Isaiah 60:1‑6. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you—Ps 71(72):1-2, 7-8, 10-13. Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6. Matthew 2:1-12.
[2] Herod the Great built up much of Jerusalem, including the second Temple, a wonder of the ancient world. This Herod was a fierce politician. His family came from the Roman province of Idumea, and had been pagan themselves.  They became Jewish in order to rule in Palestine under the protection of Rome.  So Herod was always suspected by the Jews as being a Jew in name only, but not committed to Yahweh.   In 40 BC the Roman Senate declared that Herod was King of the Jews.  He spent most of his reign trying to protect himself from being overthrown.  His own family was not safe from his paranoia.  He sent his wife and son into exile.  When his young brother-in-law was becoming too popular, he had a "drowning accident" in what archaeology has shown to be a rather shallow pool.  Herod also had three more of his sons killed when he  suspected  them of plotting against him. Many modern writers repeat the probably apocryphal story that the Emperor Augustus remarked, "It is better to be Herod's pig than his son."  By the way, that was a pun, the word for pig in Greek was hios and the word for son was wehous. Since the Jews did not eat pork, the lives of Herod’s pigs were safer than those of his sons.
[3] Saint John of the Cross was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. He is also known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature. He was canonized as a saint in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. He is one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church.

Ilustration: Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta, The Journey of the Magi, Cortona ca. 1400–1450 Siena, Metropolitan Museum of New York. 

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris