for Sunday, January 3, 2021
We are presented with contrasts today. We are presented with pagan astrologers and the leaders of the Temple.
The pagan astrologers were searching. They were on a journey of life. They were looking for truth in the world. They saw a star rising, or at least in a position in the heavens where they had never seen a star before. They believed that some god somewhere was trying to announce something through that star. So they continued the journey of their lives by following the star. They grew in faith as they traveled. When they first arrived in Jerusalem, thy looked for a political figure, the King of the Jews. That is why they went to Herod. When they arrived at the house where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were staying, they fell down in worship. They were the first gentiles to have an experience of the presence of the Messiah. Their journey of life, the journey to God was complete. They were sincere in the search. They were wise men.
The scholars in the Temple who devoted their lives to the Sacred Word and traditions of the Jewish people were not so wise. They knew that the Messiah was coming. This was foretold in Scripture. They even knew that he was coming to Bethlehem. But the political mood was such that it just was not a good time for a Messiah. They were motivated by the events of the world instead of the search for God. As a result, they missed entering into the presence of the Messiah.
The solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates Jesus showing himself (that is what Epiphany means) to those whose faith lead them to him, to those who wish to see him. The wise men who did not know God were searching for him. They found him. The Jewish scholars who had the help of scripture were not searching for him, and they missed his presence on earth.
This feast leads us to ask ourselves about our own attitudes in life. Are we really searching for God? Do we really want to find him? That is a very important question, because finding God necessitates changes in our lives. I am reminded of the Confessions of St. Augustine. Augustine wrote that before his conversion he practiced every kind of immorality. He did not want to convert to Christianity because he was afraid he might take it too seriously. He figured he would probably end up forcing himself to change his ways, and he did not want to do that.
Every experience of God demands a change in the status quo of our lives. If on Christmas we feel drawn closer to the Lord, then we have to refine our lives so we can enjoy his presence. If we are not willing to come closer to Christ, then Christmas is just a week full of empty sentiment.
David Slater, a contemporary Christian artist, wrote: "Have you ever seen Jesus, my Lord. He's here in plain view. Take a look, open your hearts, he's calling to you."
Jesus is calling all of us to come before his presence. This presence is not just in Bethlehem, but in the many places of our everyday lives. His is present in the members of our family who are hurting depressed or going through difficult times in their lives. He is present in all who are struggling to get by in difficult times. He is present in each of us as we stop to listen to our consciences rather than just go with our emotions.
"The wise still seek him," the Christmas cards say. if we really want the Lord in our lives, we will continue the search, the journey towards a new experience of his presence.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Isaiah 60.1-6
Second Reading: Ephesians 3.2-3a, 5-6
Gospel: Matthew 2.1-12
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: