Christmas - Epiphany - Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville
"...they departed...by another way."
In most all the world, Christmas has come and gone. In the stores, Christmas has been boxed up for days - not a tree, or a light, or a ribbon to be found. I'm betting cupid is already all over the place, shooting red arrows of love that can be bought with dollar bills. In most all the world, Christmas came and went without any lasting impact. Yes, we took vacation time, and celebrated with our families. Yes, we feasted on ham and turkey and pie. We exchanged gifts and had a great time. But other than wearing our new watch, or playing our new video games, for most of the world Christmas has come and gone - just a blip on the calendar; gone as quickly as the decorations disappeared from the stores. Just another day. Just another week. Just another year...
But Christmas is so much more! Brothers and sisters, if we are to live lives enflamed by the Gospel - if we are to live lives of true disciples who are falling more deeply in love with the Jesus Christ – then Christmas cannot get packed up in boxes. Our hearts cannot remain the same, we cannot be unchanged. Epiphany reminds us that we have to be changed, transformed by Christmas. Not just this week - but every day for the rest of our lives.
That must happen to us before we pack away the lights and trees; we must move on from Christmas by ANOTHER WAY... The wise men are our example. Christmas will change us…if we encounter Jesus the way they did.
First, let's look at how they were seeking. Wandering around the days of our lives, going to work and school and sports practice day in and day out without purpose won't bring us to the feet of Christ in a way that can change us. But we can do what they did. They were journeying, they were on pilgrimage; they had a destination, a goal, a reason. They didn't just wake up and get dressed because the sun had come up - when they rose, they set out, they departed with a purpose in mind. They were seeking a king to give order and reason to their lives, a king who could make all that they knew in their heads become something real in their hearts. They were seeking someone who could make their seeking make sense.
When you left to come to Church today, were you on a journey toward something? Or did you just get dressed and drive to Church because it was time to come to Church? Does our path through the weekend lead to the altar because 'that's just what we do' - or are you seeking an encounter with Jesus Christ? Did you wander here out of habit or obligation...or does your SEARCH - your JOURNEY – the purpose of your life lead you here?
The first thing we must do is to live our lives seeking Jesus. Are we looking for Jesus in our ups and downs, in our mountaintops and our valleys? Are we seeking the Son of God in our relationships, our heartbreaks, and in the circumstances of our lives?
The wise men teach us to live life looking for Jesus, and they also teach us to be overjoyed when we see the signs of His presence. "They were overjoyed at seeing the star..." But how many times do you and I encounter the divine and write it off as a coincidence? How often do we have an authentic spiritual experience, something that our head can't explain and our hearts knows is real - but we write it off, or get too afraid to let it change our lives.
Not the wise men - when they saw the sign of God Himself living and moving and acting in the world they were overjoyed. Do you let yourself become overjoyed when Jesus touches you? We must - you and I must let ourselves be moved in lasting and real ways. When God calls us to priesthood or religious life, we must have the courage to let ourselves be changed. When God stirs our hearts to heal and strengthen our marriage, we must let ourselves be moved! When the needs of our brothers and sisters for food and shelter knocks on the doors of our hearts, we must follow the example of the wise men and let our hearts be overjoyed that the King of Creation, has deigned to focus His loving gaze and attention on us and call us closer to Himself.
Our lives must be lived seeking Jesus Christ, we must let ourselves be overjoyed when we encounter Him, and then we must fall on our FACES before His Divine Majesty. "They prostrated themselves and did him homage." When He comes to be with us on this altar at the hands of His unworthy priest, we must all fall on our FACES and pay Him homage - when He appears in the recesses of our hearts, we must stop what we're doing and recognize that the King of Glory is in our presence - when He works in the twists and turns of our lives we must honor Him by saying 'not my will, Lord, but Yours' – and we must mean it. And then, like them, we must give Him the best gifts we have.
Living our lives seeking Jesus and rejoicing when we encounter Him, we pay Him homage by giving Him our gifts. Gifts that acknowledge His Kingship - not gold, but gifts like giving Him control of our finances, our careers, our families and our futures. We don't have frankincense, but we pay Him homage by giving gifts that recognize He is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God - gifts like worship at this altar and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We have no myrrh, but we pay Him homage by giving Him our own humanity, willingly carrying our crosses for Him because He carried His cross for us.
Brothers and sisters, out there Christmas is over. Out there, our lives and our routines are returning to normal. And out there, Christmas is a memory packed away in a box until next year. But in here, in these sacred walls, and in our hearts, something different must happen. If we're willing to follow the wise men, Christmas will change us. If we'll follow the wise men, the same Jesus born to us on Christmas will change us the way He changed them. If we’ll let the Wise Men teach us how to keep living the Great Adventure...
...if we're willing, then Christmas will do for us what it did for them. If we follow the Wise Men, we'll depart by another way, a better way. And we'll be changed.