joy from a star leads to another way

today is the feast of the epiphany– wise men from the east searched for and found the infant jesus. this whole story (matthew 2: 1-12) is packed with symbolism but i want to riff on just a couple of verses and possible ways of seeing ourselves in it all.

(The magi) were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. (Matthew 2: 10-12)

we all need “stars” to guide us in our life/spiritual journeys. at times this comes in the form of light from afar; light from above. at times these stars take ordinary form like a journal, reading of the scriptures, the smiling face of a baby or a seemingly random phone call. joy accompanies us when we recognize this graced light in our lives. stars that lead us to jesus are sent by the Spirit. but we always have to have our eyes open, be attentive and actively search. indeed the magi were wise. are we?

words were not needed when the magi encountered jesus with mary: just silent adoration. our faith often cannot be explained. but we know deep in our hearts when we have been touched by holy presence. these divine encounters are graced moments. when love grabs our hearts, we simply bow down in worship.

gold and frankincense are gifts for a king. myrrh is a curious gift however– it was used in biblical times for embalming dead bodies. this newborn king will be different from kings the world has seen. jesus’ power will be in his life, suffering, death, and resurrection. on earth, a vulnerable, powerless baby in a manger will ultimately become a vulnerable, powerless God-man nailed to a cross. there is holiness and divinity in the broken body of christ.

jesus’ words ring out, “when i was hungry you gave me food… a stranger and you welcomed me… sick and in prison and you visited me” (matthew 25: 31ff). will our homage of jesus help us recogize and respond to the broken body of Christ among us?

after the magi’s encounter with jesus, they returned “by another way.” herod was going to exploit the magi’s encounter for his own purpose: to kill jesus. powers of this world can co-opt religion from self giving to selfishness. the Spirit can let us know when things just are not right– we will know it in our gut.

the Spirit will lead us to return to our lives and world “by another way.” communion and adoration are not just for me but exist for the transformation of our lives, our community, and our world. we ought not go backwards to what leads to sin and death. we ought to go back to our lives with a changed heart; “by another way.” encounters with Christ brings hope to the world and helps us see and live in this gracious love.

in this global covid pandemic, we need stars to guide us. we look for encounters with Christ that bring joy and change our hearts. we need special graces to respond lovingly and justly to the brokenness of the Body of Christ among us in our sisters and brothers.

let us pray:

God of light, you reveal to people of faith the resplendent fact of the Word made flesh. Your light is strong, your love is near; draw us beyond the limits which this world imposes, to the life where your Spirit makes all life complete. through Christ our Lord. Amen

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