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Today we celebrate the Epiphany with the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem. And we celebrate this every year so that we may rediscover Christ in a new and deeper way and grow closer to him and not take our Christianity for granted. The magi, like ourselves, were from other parts of the world than Israel. They represent how Jesus came to save everyone by calling all peoples to himself. They didn’t come to him because someone was telling them they had to go or it was their religious obligation. They weren’t even Jewish! King Herod, on the other hand, was Jewish but didn’t know about any new king. He did not read his bible. He was unfamiliar with the scriptures and probably didn’t pray. He had quit practicing his religion and had just become a worldly man. The Magi, however, came because they heard how important the new king of the Jews would be. They came because they wanted to come, they desired to see him, the needed to see Jesus. And so they carefully followed the directions to look for him in a particular place in the town of Bethlehem. And when they found him, the Gospel said they were overjoyed, “and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts.” The Magi followed a star to discover Jesus. We follow the light of faith.   Every time we go to Mass, whether on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation, we have the privilege of imitating the Magi in the Gospel.

How privileged we are to have that same inspiration! Even though, like them, we are not part of the original chosen people of God, we seek Jesus because there is something in us that makes us want to know him, we feel we need him as the king of our lives, and we desire to see him in order to offer him our love. And the same Jesus who was present in Bethlehem is present in a particular place in this town and waits for us to come and visit him in the Holy Mass. And so each time we come into the this house, this church guided by the light of faith, we, like the Magi, recognize our king and do as they did when they prostrated themselves to show homage - we genuflect in reverence, kneel down to worship him as our Lord and King. And then we, too, open our treasure and offer him gifts, we give our tithes to him, our time and attention, and show him our love. Therefore, when we come to Mass with the spirit of the Magi, we also are overjoyed as we enter into his presence.

Now, sadly, there are those Catholics who have spirit more like Herod who was Jewish in name only and not in practice. They are not so inspired to seek to find Jesus. They don’t even know their faith well enough to realize the basic obligations. That was Herod’s bigger sin - he didn’t even know about the birth of Jesus, much less try to celebrate it. And so many Catholics don’t come joyfully into Christ’s presence each Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation. They lack reverence while passing by him in the Tabernacle, they offer little or no gifts to him in the form of tithes and time in doing things in service to their home parish. Their Catholic faith is an inconvenience to them. Herod saw Jesus as an inconvenience to his way of life, even as a threat. We hear how he was easily provoked to anger to the point of wanting to destroy Jesus. The Magi on the other hand were filled with God’s love when they discovered Jesus. Their relationship with Jesus doesn’t inconvenience them but changes their life! The Gospel says that after their time with Jesus, “they departed for their country by another way.” They didn’t go back to their old ways. They changed their direction in life. They no longer followed the false king Herod who represents all the powers of the world, but the true King Jesus Christ.

As we begin a New Year, we can check our attitude toward Jesus, toward living our faith, to see if it is becoming more like Herod or more the like the Magi by asking ourselves: Does Jesus inconvenience my life? Is going to Mass on Sunday’s and Holy Day’s of Obligation a joy for me? Do I give substantial gifts from my time and treasure out of love for Jesus, in order to support the parish, to help the poor? We can ask these things individually, as a family, and as a parish. Do we believe that the same Jesus the Magi discovered in Bethlehem is present with us in the Eucharist at Mass? Do we show him proper reverence with our devotion, attention and how we dress while in his presence at Mass? After Mass is over, do we immediately begin to speak and act as if nothing happened and go back to our old ways and return to our old sins? Or do we believe that we just had a true encounter with Jesus who gives us the grace to redirect our life away from our old ways.

May this Epiphany help us to follow the light of our faith to discover or rediscover the true King who redirects our ways, guides all our decisions, and helps us to treat others with love and respect. May we not become like the Herods of the world who take their faith for granted but come and renew our faith every Sunday. And after our encounter with the Lord this Sunday and every Sunday, may we return to our homes, to our families, to our relationships with our brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors and co-workers as true Christians who light up our dark world with the spirit of joy so that others may not be afraid of Jesus but also want to go and discover him just as we have this Christmas. Amen.  

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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