How far will we journey to give our hearts and lives to God this year?
By Father Dominic Garramone, OSB
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord/Jan. 6
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13; Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
Since the 19th century, there has been scholarly debate as to the historical basis of the story of the Magi. Some scholars study the astronomical aspect of the story, trying to determine what the star was and when it actually appeared. Others look at ancient scientific knowledge and culture to determine the likely place of origin for the Magi themselves, and still others consider geography, the available means of travel, or the hazards of a long journey in the ancient world. Some question whether story has a historical basis at all.
All of these matters are interesting enough, but they don’t get to the heart of the feast of the Epiphany. For that, we need to spend some time not at the intersection of history and the biblical account, but in that place where sacred Scripture penetrates to the depth of the human experience.
The passage from Isaiah describes the longing of the people to return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. The exile of the people of God from their homeland is a powerful metaphor for our own experience of the effects of our sin, which separates us from the heart of God, which is our true homeland. We long to live in the light of Christ, so that light can draw others to fellowship and worship.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians expands on this idea of drawing others to God, as he speaks of his mission to proclaim the Good News not only to the Jewish people, but to all the nations, to bring all peoples into the one Body of Christ. The Church’s mission of evangelization has its origin in the story of the Magi, who are a symbol of how all are welcome to come and worship.
The Gospel for the feast contains many elements worthy of reflection: the willingness to leave all things to follow a heavenly guide; the faith required to journey in the dark to an unknown destination; the humility required to ask for help and to bow down in worship; the offering of costly and meaningful gifts; the journey home “by another way.” The passage is unusually rich with potential for applying the biblical situation to one’s own life.
The Christmas season will soon be over and we will enter the liturgical season of Ordinary Time once again. How will our Christmas experience be reflected in our daily lives? How can the readings suggest spiritual resolutions to accompany the ones we may have made on Jan. 1 about weight loss or time management?
How has sin exiled me from my true homeland, which is the heart of God? As I begin the spiritual journey of the new year, what are the ways I need to turn away from the darkness of falsehood and selfishness and turn toward the light of Christ?
Like Paul, have I labored to draw others to faith? By my words and actions, have I actually pushed people away from the Christian community? In 2019, what can I do to overcome narrow-mindedness, prejudice, or a judgmental spirit?
Am I actively seeking God? How far am I willing to journey from familiar places, old habits, cherished prejudices, in order to adore God and give my life over to Him? Have I even begun the spiritual journey? Did the Advent and Christmas seasons change me, so that I must “go home by another way” — must not go back to my old ways of thinking and living?
Believe me, I’m asking myself these very questions. Let’s begin the spiritual journey of 2019 together.
Father Dominic Garramone, OSB, is a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, where he serves as subprior and choirmaster. He also heads the religion department and serves as drama director at St. Bede Academy.