Is. 60:1-6; Ephes. 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt. 2:1-12
Today we celebrate the Epiphany Sunday.
Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 60:1-6] was the beginning of three Chapters of prophecies that provided a lyrical description of the new Jerusalem. In the new Jerusalem, the glory of God would be seen, not only upon the Jewish nation, but also upon the Gentiles. This truth is made very obvious in the last verse where it states, "They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord." [Is.60:1-6] As the Gospel of Matthew affirms, "wise men (magi) from the East came to Jerusalem" [Mt. 2:1] and offered baby Jesus "gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." [Mt. 2:11]
"The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis describes the journey of a group of people guided by a star. In "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," a noble and adventurous character named Prince Caspian sets sail on the ship "Dawn Treader" accompanied by the valiant King Edmund, Queen Lucy, their peevish cousin Eustace, and a diverse crew. The primary goal is to explore the uncharted Eastern Seas and find seven lost lords who were loyal to Caspian's father.
Early in the journey, the crew discovers that they are sailing towards a lone, bright star that directs their course. This star is a celestial representation of Aslan, the great lion and allegorical Christ figure in the series. The crew learns to trust and follow the star, representing their reliance on divine guidance.
Ultimately, the quest guided by the stars in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" symbolizes a spiritual pilgrimage, where characters grow in wisdom and faith through their adventures, facing moral dilemmas, and discovering the importance of grace and redemption. The celestial imagery serves as a metaphor for the guiding presence of a higher power, leading the characters toward their destination and personal transformation.
In our contemporary lives, we encounter individuals who, like the wise men, embark on journeys of faith guided by unexpected signs. Stories abound of people who find faith in the midst of adversity or embark on spiritual quests that lead to transformative encounters with Christ. These stories remind us that God's guidance is not confined to ancient times but is active in our lives today.
One powerful contemporary example of individuals embarking on journeys of faith guided by unexpected signs is the story of Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.
Immaculée, a Tutsi woman, experienced the horrors of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, during which nearly one million people were killed in ethnic violence. Immaculée sought refuge in a small bathroom with seven other women, where she remained for 91 days. In the midst of unimaginable fear and suffering, Immaculée turned to her faith.
During those dark days, she found solace in prayer and meditation on Scripture. One day, she came across a Bible left by the previous occupants of the bathroom. As she opened it, her eyes fell on the words of Matthew 5:44-45, where Jesus teaches about loving one's enemies and praying for those who persecute you. This unexpected encounter with the Bible became a guiding star for Immaculée, influencing her perspective on forgiveness and reconciliation.
Inspired by her faith, Immaculée not only survived the genocide but also went on a remarkable journey of forgiveness and reconciliation. She forgave those who had caused immense pain and loss in her life. Immaculée's story became a testament to the transformative power of faith, turning tragedy into a platform for spreading the message of love and forgiveness.
Immaculée's journey, like that of the wise men, demonstrates that God's guidance is not confined to ancient times. Even in the darkest moments of contemporary history, unexpected signs can serve as guiding stars, leading individuals towards faith, hope, and the transformative encounter with the divine. Her story continues to inspire and reminds us that God's grace is active and powerful, even in the midst of profound adversity.
In today’s reading we heard that Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, 'Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.'
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road." [Mt. 2:1-12]
Their willingness to change course, guided by divine intervention, serves as a powerful lesson for us in our own spiritual journeys.
The Bible is replete with instances where individuals experienced divine course corrections. Think of Jonah, who initially resisted God's call to go to Nineveh but ultimately embraced the change in direction after spending time in prayer within the belly of the fish. These examples remind us that God's redirection often leads to greater alignment with His divine plan.
In the lives of saints and spiritual leaders, we find numerous examples of course corrections prompted by prayer and reflection. St. Augustine, for instance, underwent a profound transformation after years of a wayward lifestyle. His prayerful reflection led to a change of heart, redirecting him towards a life of service and devotion to God.
a significant figure in Christian history known for his profound conversion and transformation.
St. Augustine, born in 354 AD, lived a life marked by intellectual pursuits and a wayward lifestyle during his early years. He pursued a secular career, indulged in worldly pleasures, and strayed away from the Christian faith instilled in him by his mother, St. Monica.
One of the most pivotal moments in Augustine's life occurred in the garden of Milan during a period of intense inner struggle and soul-searching. In deep prayer and reflection, he experienced a profound encounter with God. It was in this moment of spiritual crisis and contemplation that he heard a child's voice repeating the words, "Take up and read."
Taking this as a divine sign, Augustine opened the Scriptures and read a passage from the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 13:13-14). The words struck him to the core, serving as a catalyst for his conversion. The passage urged him to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
His willingness to heed the divine call, coupled with a deep inner transformation, not only changed the trajectory of his life but also had a lasting impact on Christian theology and spirituality.
Dear friends, the story of the wise men beckons us to be open to divine course corrections. In the quiet moments of prayer and reflection, God often speaks to our hearts, guiding us towards a path that may differ from our own plans. Like the wise men, let us be willing to change course, trusting that God's redirection leads to a destination far beyond our human understanding.