Shine Like a Star

Shine Like a Star

January 8, 2017 | HNMWebmaster | Deacon Eddie, Discipleship, Evangelization, Homilies, Light, St. Matthew

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
January 8, 2017 – Year A

Readings: Is 60:1-6 / Psalm 72 / Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 / Mt 2:1-12
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

I have a question for you. How many of you have family stories? I think you probably know what I am talking about. They are those stories that are told by your father, or your grandfather, or maybe your uncle, about some event that happened in your family’s past. Maybe it’s about the time so-and-so hiked up the mountain on a hunting expedition. I will bet that over the years those stories have morphed and evolved. Maybe the mountain got taller and steeper, maybe the weather got colder, maybe the fish got bigger. But this shouldn’t surprise you because this very thing happens in every culture. If you’ve ever studied mythology, you’ll see this happening. For instance the story of King Arthur – that story evolved and changed over time.

You can see the same thing happening in the Scriptures. The stories that are told in the Scriptures are embellished, and they are expanded. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, because the Scriptures do not change, it’s something to be aware of. Today’s Gospel is a prime example of this phenomenon. So in the story of the Epiphany, how many kings are there? Actually, there are none. There are magi, but it doesn’t tell you how many there were. It just uses the plural. It has been assumed, in our culture, that there were three of them, because there were three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But in other cultures, it was assumed that there were twelve.

So I have another question for you. Where were the magi from? They were from the East. They may have been from the Orient, they may have been of Oriental heritage like the song says, but they may not. Magi were a priestly class from Persia. At the time of this story, the Persian empire stretched from just east of Israel all the way out into the Far East. So they may have been, as they are often depicted in pictures, of Asian descent. But they may have looked more Arab.

These embellishments are actually helpful. They help us to personalize and internalize these stories, because describing them as kings is a whole lot easier to understand. While they probably were not technically kings, to the people in Bethlehem at that time they certainly would have been thought of as royal.

This technique of looking at scriptures and expanding on them personally is actually a technique that was promoted by St. Ignatius. I don’t remember what he called it, but I think of it as “First Person Scripture.” It’s where you put yourself in the story and you personalize it, internalize it, and expand upon it mentally to draw truths from it. I like to do that a lot when I am preparing for a Homily, because it helps me to looks deeper and to really study exactly what is being said.

One thing that I would like to know in this story, is what happened to the magi after they left. The scriptures say that they departed for home. Did they make it? We don’t know – maybe they did. Maybe they were so moved by this experience that it changed their lives, and maybe the course of their lives was permanently altered from that moment forward.
But it’s also possible that the experience they had, the awe that they felt when they saw the Christ Child, faded over time. Maybe over time, they thought about it less and less. If we are honest with ourselves, that happens to us too. Maybe you’ve been on a retreat at some point and had a profound experience; you’ve returned home on fire, but then life happens. You get distracted, you have to go back to work, your house needs cleaning, and that fire that you felt at that retreat kind of fades over time. That’s why our Church recommends that retreats and occasions like this are not one-time events, and that we do them throughout our lives, to constantly renew that fire.

Another thing that I think about in this story is what happened to the star. We really don’t know. I invite you to Google it, because there are all kinds of legends about what happened to it. But as I reflect on it, I think that the star holds an important lesson for us. How many of you have ever been to a Baptism? How many of you have been to a Baptism within the last year? If it’s been a while since you went to a Baptism, I would encourage you to try to attend one. There is one specific moment in the Liturgy that makes me think about this story. It’s when the Celebrant takes the Baptismal candle and lights it from the Paschal Candle. He takes the candle and he hands it to the parents and godparents and says, “Receive the Light of Christ.” He tells the parents and godparents to make sure that this light is kept safe, kept safe in the child, and is grown and nurtured.

Because every one of us received the Light of Christ at our Baptism, and if it is nurtured and grows, and if we tend it, then that light becomes like the star. That light can become a star for the people that we see every day. Like the star, that light that is held inside of us, can lead others to Christ.

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