A blessed and happy New Year to all! During these days, the Church continues to celebrate the wonderful season of Christmas. The Christmas season officially ends on the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, which is celebrated this year on Monday, January 9th.
This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God and Savior of the world, to the Gentiles. We read the story of the Magi who, following the star, came from the east to adore the newborn King of the Jews. The Magi represent all the people of the world and reveal that Jesus has come not only as the Messiah of the Jewish people, but as the Savior of the whole world. As Saint Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “the Gentiles are coheirs… and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
As the Magi came to Bethlehem to worship the child Jesus, it is good to reflect on our calling to be a people of adoration and worship of God. How grateful I am that so many of our Catholic brothers and sisters are returning to the worship of God at Sunday Mass, having been inspired by our on-going Catholics Come Home campaign. Let us continue to pray for this intention: for our non-practicing brothers and sisters to return to the practice of the faith in their spiritual home, the Catholic Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the worship of God, adoration and honor given to God, is the first act of “the virtue of religion.” We see in the visit of the Magi, this virtue put into practice, an example for all of us. In a gesture of profound humility and respect, the wise men prostrated themselves before the child Jesus in the arms of His mother. They honored him with the most precious gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Magi are a striking example for us who are called to be a people of adoration in our daily life. We are called to have the attitude of the wise men, humbling recognizing that we are creatures and would not even exist if it were not for God who, in His infinite and merciful love, has given us life. This awareness leads us to praise and exalt our Creator and to humble ourselves before Him. The Catechism teaches that “the worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.”
The Magi said to King Herod that they had come to Bethlehem to do homage to the newborn king of the Jews. “We have come to worship him,” they declared. This is what we do every time we celebrate the sacred liturgy. We offer the Lord adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. In doing so, we are sanctified. The Lord blesses us with His love and grace.
In a more secularized society, the duty to worship God is often ignored. Herod’s pride created within him contempt for the Lord. He not only refused to worship Him; he actively sought to destroy him. We may not find this extreme attitude very often today, however, we do see a lot of indifference to God and lukewarmness in the practice of divine worship. Let us pray for a renewed commitment to Sunday Mass among Catholics in our diocese and throughout the world. I also wish to mention the beautiful tradition of adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a wonderful opportunity to worship the Lord outside of Mass.
Blessed John Paul II, not long before he died, spoke of the secularized culture in which we live as characterized by a forgetfulness of God and a vain pursuit of human self-sufficiency. Pope Benedict XVI has also spoken of this quite often. It is good to remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: “Without God the Creator, the creature would disappear.”
At the beginning of this new year, let us be resolved to cultivate the attitude of the Magi. They were indeed wise men because they recognized their need for God. They had a profound respect for their Creator and humbly prostrated themselves before Him. We imitate the Magi by our own fidelity to Holy Mass, by our daily prayer, and by adoration of the most holy Eucharist. Thus we are able to say with the Magi: “We have come to worship Him.” This is not only our duty to God; it is our joy and our peace. The worship of God sanctifies us and sets us free!
In this new year 2012, may God pour out His blessing upon you and upon our diocese!
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