The Pope has asked us to reflect on a year of faith and I think the magi are a good way to start thinking about it. After all, it must take a lot of faith to see a star appear in a sky, ascertain that there must be a new born king of the Jews, leave behind everything and decide that you will follow that star wherever it leads. But that first Christian journey is like all Christian journeys. We are star followers. Amidst of a blanket of stars in the sky, we choose one, Jesus Christ, and say that is how we want to guide our destiny. In a world that treasures self-determination, we dare to say that we are only at peace when we are led by another; that our destiny we gladly place in the hands of Jesus Christ. And as the magi must have been ridiculed, so do we face skeptical looks.
But we must act like the magi and be willing to leave everything behind, everything we know to follow the destiny God has in mind for us. For we know, that our good God has promised something wonderful for us – the right person, the right vocation, the right place. To pursue it tough, we must have the same abandon as the magi. Only in following the star of Christ will we find the peace that we have always sought and dreamed of.
The magi follow the general direction of the star and reach Jerusalem and although the star seems to beckon just beyond, they stop. After all, Jerusalem is a reasonable place to find the new born king of the Jews, isn’t it? If the star is not directly overhead, at least you can see it from there. So they decide to investigate. They ask Herod, the current king of the Jews, who is quite surprised there is a new born king of the Jews he has no idea about. They investigate as to where their destination lies.
I think every Christian journey has a stopping point like this. A place that seems reasonably close to the star. A place in between where God is leading you and your own expectations. If it is not beneath the star, we can feel its light from the angle. It makes so much sense that this has to be place. This has to be the right person, place or vocation. But don’t stop in Jerusalem.
I am always amazed that I became a priest. I had reached my Jerusalem point. I was content with everything fitting in just so. But the star was not finished with me.
I remember preparing my brother and sister in law for their wedding. I asked them what their song is. They really did not have one, so I wondered what they would do for their first dance. Jenny said she always liked a song called, “You were what I always dreamed of.” And I laughed. I said Jenny, before you met John, how did you picture your husband. She said, “Quiet, reserved, not that much into sports.” Unfortunately for Jenny, my brother is far too much like me for that to be true. That was what she expected, but it is not where the star led her.
The hardest few miles of the Christian journey are those last few miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. From the place we think we are called to where God is calling us. From the almost right relationship, the pretty good space, the service that fits your circumstances to the place where God wants you, where the star sheds it light directly upon you.
But those few miles are worth everything. The magi are overjoyed at seeing the star as it somehow stops over one place. It bathes light on Mary, Joseph and Jesus. This finally is the right place. They can feel its peace. And what do you do when you reach the place where God has called you to? You give it everything. If you have gold, you give your gold. If you have frankincense, you give it frankincense. And if you have myrrh, you say, “What is myrrh?” and you give that away too. You give it everything because this is where you belong. Bathed in the light of star of Christ, everything makes sense and you are at peace. This Epiphany may we have the courage, wisdom and grace to follow the star to its end, to the feet of Jesus where our peace always lies.