Solemnity of the Epiphany. January 5, 2019.
Is 60:1-6, Eph 3:2-3,5-6; Mt 2:1-12
Following the promptings of grace today
Imagine the incredulous look on the faces of their relatives and friends when the Magi told them something like this:
We saw this unique star at its rising. We believe that it points to the birth of a special king among the Jews. We are going to follow this star wherever it leads us and no matter what it costs us. We do not know how long we will have to follow that star but we are determined to leave everything and search for this Jewish king until we find Him. Why are we searching for this infant King? Well, we just want to worship Him and offer Him these our gifts wherever we may find Him.
Surely the Magi must have looked like fools to their acquaintances and relatives. Maybe they were called names and mocked for abandoning all that they labored for and embarking on what seemed a ludicrous expedition. But the Magi were not deterred from whatever negative reaction that their expedition provoked from others.
In arriving at Jerusalem, they exuberantly asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen His star and have come to do Him homage.” Their words did not bring the intended joy to the inhabitants of the city but inner turmoil, “When the king heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Again the Magi were not deterred by the troubled hearts of those who heard their joyful message.
The Magi were bent on one thing – finding the infant king, worshipping Him and offering Him their gifts. In short, they were only following the prompting of grace offered them through this star without fear of human respect, acceptance, or approval.
The star was the means of grace by which the infant Jesus was drawing them to Himself. It is the grace of God through this star that enlightened them to the meaning of this star. This same grace moved them to begin their journey with courage and determination, enlightened them on the appropriate gifts to bring for the infant king, and sustained them throughout their journey. All they had to do was follow this star to the very end.
What did they gain by following the star to the very end? They found great inner joy, “They were overjoyed in seeing the star.” In addition, they did not need any more stars, but God began to interiorly guide them through the dangers of their journey back home, “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.”
Epiphany is not about God manifesting Himself to us for the sake of manifesting Himself. He does not manifest Himself to us for our entertainment but to draw us by His grace towards Himself so that we may “have life and have it abundantly.”(Jn 10:10) He is drawing all persons, Jews and non-Jews, to Himself because, by His Incarnation, “the Gentiles are now coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
God’s grace is drawing us to Himself today in many ways. Our world cannot understand or accept the ways that God’s grace impacts and moves us because, in the words of St. John, “We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us.”(1Jn 4:5) So we will always seem like fools to the worldly minded when we follow the faithfully promptings of divine grace in our lives.
This is why a major obstacle in responding to movements of grace is our excessive fear about what people will say or think about us and our choices. We have this excessive desire to belong and to blend with the crowd, to win their acceptance and favor, to gain their support and praise. We forget that grace moves us to belong to God completely and to please Him alone, to offer ourselves and all that we are to Him for His own glory. No, grace is not given to us to make us blend and become acceptable to the crowd in our secular age.
Our world today has a plethora of names ready for us if we dared to faithfully follow the promptings of divine grace. We will be called “rigid” if we uphold the scriptural and traditional teachings of the Church. We will be called “homophobes” if we dared to mention anything about the evil of homosexuality. We will be called “insensitive” if we spoke of the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion. We would be called “prudes” if we generously followed the Church’s teaching on sexuality according to our state of life. We are called “extremists” when we take seriously the call to make sacrifices for the sake of Christ. Then we are accused of being “schismatic” when we express concerns and raise questions about the doctrinal confusion in the Church today.
How can we follow the prompting of grace in our world that is becoming more and more hostile to generous discipleship? We need to cultivate what St. Ignatius of Loyola called the attitude of indifference. This does not mean a stoic and uncaring attitude towards our conditions or the reaction of others, but it means that we do not prefer one thing over another as a consequence of our choices to fulfill the will of God as prompted by divine grace. By indifference, we do not prefer praise over insult, acceptance over rejection, fame over obscurity, etc. We peacefully accept all these and see it all as a means to further praise, reverence and serve God by His grace and thus to save our souls.
The infant Jesus who manifested Himself to the whole world was both loved and sought for by the Magi and hated and despised by King Herod before He spoke a single word. He was praised by angels and by the shepherds and also hunted down by Herod’s soldiers. He was ardently loved by His Mother, St. Joseph, the crowds, and His disciples and also hated, insulted, and crucified by the Jewish leaders. We are saved by the indifference of Christ who accepted all these for our sake, willingly accepting the manger as well as the cross and grave as His places of repose.
This same Jesus manifests Himself to us in this Eucharist and He does so to draw us to Himself through the grace that He would offer us through many “stars” in our daily life. With the help of Mary, Our Mother of divine grace, may we recognize our “stars” and follow them as bearers of grace till the very end no matter what others may say or think about us. People will surely think us foolish as we follow the promptings of divine grace. But if we follow the promptings of grace to the very end with a spirit of indifference, we shall find that His joy will be in us and we shall see Him guiding us through the dangerous terrains of earthly life. These divine rewards surely make it worthy for us to follow the movements of divine grace faithfully no matter how foolish we may appear to others in world today.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!