Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Honoring the discovery of God

By Father Paul Henson, O.Carm.

This week, the church celebrates Epiphany Sunday. So as I said at the beginning of Mass, it's "Discovery Sunday," it's a new way of looking at the world; it's a new vision. It's perhaps even a new search. And I think all of us, especially those of us with a lot more wisdom, can agree to this comment that I think we spend, as human beings, we spend so much of our time searching. Searching for the perfect answer. We spend so much time searching for the perfect response and how am I supposed to respond, and the ultimate wisdom, the ultimate knowledge, the ultimate love in our life, the ultimate source of absolute knowledge. We spend so much of our time looking and looking and looking for the right person who's going to give me all the answers. And I think, in a way, what we celebrate today in terms of the Magi and Epiphany Sunday, is this honoring this search of ours as human beings. And so it is epitomized or represented today in the three Magi, the three kings.

And so we have Casper, Melchior and Balthasar. These three people were astronomers, so they were looking for the ultimate answer to the questions of life. They looked to the stars, because the stars had a rhythm, they had something that was constructive; they could see the movement of the stars. It was something that they could look to and say, "Oh, there's an answer." In fact — which was something very interesting about these three Magi and astronomers during that time — is that they believed this: The reason for their search and their study of the skies is that every single star represented a person. That star, in a sense, created a destiny or had some kind of plan for this person. So they saw this star that was bright. There's something special about that star. It's bright. Not only that, but it's moving (it could have been a comet, maybe). Someone is destined to be huge, to be the light, to give us some source of wisdom or knowledge is to be the one that we need to look to.

And so they searched. And we don't know how long they searched. How long does it take for us to find out answers? A lifetime. So they searched and they searched, and they even went to King Herod. At a particular time they went to King Herod and said, look, we know this star is up there. It's the brightest thing we've seen in a long time. This is supposed to be a king, supposed to be someone huge, supposed to be someone with a lot of influence in the world. Where is the newborn king of the Jews supposed to be? And of course, the Jews at that time — Israel, King Herod — were looking for (well, King Herod thought there was going to be this huge king with his army to come to destroy) someone to come and keep them and remove them from the destruction that they were going through, all the the pains and distraught, and all that they were going through; to just lift them up and take them to a special place and say this is your homeland. So in a sense it was kind of not right. It was a little disorienting. But these kings knew there was something special about this king. And so they found the baby Jesus. They found this little baby. Remember the audacity of our God to want to become human —  not powerful, not authoritative, not judging, not judgmental, not a God who just enjoys that people suffer, but a God who's a baby. A God who wants us to care and love each other the way we care and love for a baby.

So the idea here is for us — and I've said this before, so it's nothing new that you're going to hear — that each of us, we were born on the day we were born to be here, No. 1, but to do something special, something unique. And not because a star tells us to do so, but because we believe in a God who sees nothing but potential in us. Nothing but the best possible things that could happen to you. A God who sees us with so much intelligence (but we got to study along the way, right? We just can't sit back and think it's all going to come do us). A God who sees so much capacity to forgive, to love, to work things out, even in the midst of dramatic marriage difficulties, even in the most difficult times of when we lose a son or daughter, God sees us and says, You have faith; don't give up. We can maximize ourselves in our human person, and that's the only way we can maximize ourselves is through the human experience. So God honors it. And that's why we honor today the discovery of God in human person; in wisdom; in understanding; in caring; in fighting for justice, fighting for those things that are unjust, you know, getting rid of the injustice, the mistreatment of people. You know, when there are obstacles to people's growth and movement forward, to remove those things, that's what we're called to do.

And we have an individual call. Each of us was born on the day we were born to be here. And so I want you just to think about that for just a few seconds. What is your destiny? Why are you alive? What has God given to you that you can help manifest his name, his praise, his ability to love people, his ability to forgive people? What is it in you that you manifest, the commitment of God in human persons? What is your gift to the world? What is your star, and how bright is your star?

Every Sunday we come to Mass (and I think we just kind of think it's just something else to do). But there's something spectacular that happens here, bigger than the brightest star that you could ever imagine, bigger than the treasures that people gave Jesus, bigger than any treasures we may possess — our faith, our person-hood, who we are. With the words of the priest and the Holy Spirit, we change our lives into the body and blood of Christ. We become icons of Christ in this world. We become shinning lights. But you got to believe it. If you don't believe that we can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, then you go to look at your faith.  We become the shinning light of Christ to each other.

So that's your challenge this week. Go out and be a light of Christ. Go out and just destroy darkness. Bring people from doubt into belief in their marriage, in their commitment to each other, and in their commitment to faith. So come forward once again. Receive the body and blood of Christ and go out and be that sun, be that star for those people that need us today.

Father Paul Henson, O.Carm., is principal of Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino. Reach him at (818) 345-1672, or e-mail

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