January 2, 2013 // Uncategorized

Epiphany: Following the star

A blessed and happy New Year to all! I hope you had a blessed and joy-filled Christmas. We are still in the holy season of Christmas. This coming Sunday, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. We celebrate that ancient feast which highlights the manifestation (“epiphany”) of the Lord Jesus to all peoples, represented by the Magi who followed the star to Bethlehem to worship the newborn King.

We hear these words of the prophet Isaiah on the feast of the Epiphany: Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you… Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance (60:1,3). In this Christmas season, we celebrate that the true light has come into the world: Jesus, the light of the nations. He is the light that shines in the darkness.

One of the symbols of Christmas is the star. The Magi from the east followed the star to Bethlehem. Saint Matthew tells us that the star they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.

There have been many theories and opinions about what kind of star this was that the Magi followed. In his wonderful new book on the Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict XVI examines the various hypotheses. One explanation is that it was a conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars (which the astronomer Johannes Kepler calculated took place at the time Jesus was born). Kepler and others also postulate the appearance of a supernova at that time. A supernova is an initially weak star in which an inner explosion releases a brilliant light or a comet. Whatever it was, among the astronomers in the east at that time, only the Magi recognized the star as the star of promise. Only they followed the star in search of God. Our Holy Father wrote that through the language of creation, they discovered the God of history.

Pope Benedict says that we can leave the debate about the nature of the star over Bethlehem to scientists. The Holy Father teaches the most important truth about this mystery: The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world.

In this Year of Faith, we are reminded, as Saint Augustine wrote, that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Our hearts are never ultimately satisfied without God. God has not left humanity in this state of restlessness. He has come to us. He has come to satisfy the hungers of our hearts. He has sent us his Son to reveal to us his mystery and our mystery, the truth about God and the truth about man, our purpose, and our destiny.

Jesus is the light who illumines our personal existence and who guides us toward the fullness of life in heaven. He is the light who guides us on our journey of faith. There are other smaller lights (other stars) that help us on the journey: the saints. Pope Benedict calls the saints “stars of God” who show us the light of Christ and help us to follow the path to heaven.

This past Tuesday, New Year’s Day, we celebrated the feast of the greatest “star of God” after Jesus Himself: Mary, the Mother of God. In his encyclical on Christian hope, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict called the Blessed Mother “Star of hope.” The Holy Father wrote: Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her ‘yes’ she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. John 1:14). Indeed Mary and the saints show us the way. They are like stars who shine upon us and teach us to follow Him who is the Light of the world.

When we think about the condition of the world today, we see a lot of darkness or, at least, a lot of fog. Many are longing for truth and meaning, hope and joy, whether they are actively searching or not. The task of the new evangelization calls us to bring the light of Christ into this darkness, to help people to see through the fog of confusion in a culture of increasing secularism and relativism. The Church has the mandate from Christ to offer the light of the Gospel to all people. Christ is the light of the nations who came to offer salvation to all people. We are all called to be stars, to be saints, who help to lead others along the path toward Christ, to show God’s light by the way we live, speak, and act.

In this New Year, let us resolve, with the help of God’s grace, not to be afraid of the darkness and to follow Him who is the light of the world. United in Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, and assisted by the prayers of Mary and the saints, may we live our faith with courage and vitality in this New Year!


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