Do we follow God’s light or take our own path?

By: By Msgr. Albert W. Hallin

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, Jan. 5

Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13; Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

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“From the East.” These words about the magi in today’s Gospel evoke many sentiments and meanings: exotic, impenetrable, inscrutable, mysterious, intriguing, at once attracting and repelling, dangerous and wise as opposed to learned. All of these meanings and more wash into the symbolism of this feast.

Yet true wisdom beckons these sages — these diviners of astral meaning — these men of wealth in search of the Interpreter of Life. When they find Him, they worship and present gifts. They acknowledge that in finding Christ “together with Mary, His Mother” they have reached the end of their quest for meaning in their lives.

Notice the change in the magi when they find Jesus. While they placed their faith in the God who led them by His sacred symbol — the star — they reached the land where “the newborn King of the Jews” was to be found. But when they abandoned their trust in God and relied on their own calculations as to His whereabouts, they found themselves instead ensnared in the evil machinations of the despicable Herod.

Once they left Herod’s malign presence, God gave them another chance to believe that He would lead them to the object of their quest. They would reach their destination if they followed the star, not their own human calculations. It led them “to the place where Jesus was.”

Humbly, they adored. Generously, they presented appropriate gifts. Repentantly, they rejected Herod’s wiles and “went back to their own country by another route.”

HAVE WE PRAYED ENOUGH?
This Epiphany, we again “look East.” In a sense that “East” still retains all of the strangeness assigned it by the Bible. We are engaged in a conflict with an ideology that we find incomprehensible.

Using Jesus’ own litmus test — “by their fruits you shall know them” — we seem to be confronting evil in the forms of mindless ancient hatreds, all-devouring and soul-corrupting hostility, unintelligible self-destruction, death all around us and a heart-constricting fear everywhere. We are sure that none of this can come from God nor lead us to Him, the destiny of all mankind.

Deep sadness overwhelms us as we see the land of Jesus immersed in warfare that truncates the traditional Christmas celebration and casts a pall on the celebration everywhere. Sincere compassion is what we must feel for the Holy Father as we see his outreach to the separated churches of the East.

Our spiritual task this Epiphany Day is clear. We must implore God for peace through reconciliation, forgiveness and justice, as the Holy Father begged us in his New Year’s message. We are convinced that we must beg God to bend the knees of the haters and of all manner of evildoers until they find themselves humbly in the presence of Jesus, whom they will discover only “with Mary, His mother.”

Is this a hopeless pipe dream? Is it impossible? Not even thinkable? Is this beyond the limits of the power of a God who comes to us as a helpless Baby who is allowed to be put at risk by a murderous Herod? Is it beyond the power of God to bring about “peace to men of good will”? And if we beg Him with true faith, will He not turn haters into peacemakers?

We don’t know yet, do we, because we have not all prayed enough yet, have we? My question is this: Do we have an answer?

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Msgr. Albert Hallin has been a priest of the Diocese of Peoria for 52 years. Granted senior status and named pastor emeritus of St. Boniface, Seymour, in 2012, he resides in Champaign.

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