January 7, 2016 by eneubauer
I was sitting in mass this past weekend as we celebrated The Epiphany of the Lord and was moved by the Gospel reading from St. Matthew 2: 1-12. You may be familiar with the story of the wise men visiting Jesus as a young boy and honoring him with gold, frankincense and myrrh. No doubt you have heard many sermons / homilies on the subject. However, as I look back on last Sunday and reflect on its impact I wanted to share a few thoughts with you that I think may be helpful as you enter fully into the New Year.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:10-12 ESV)
First, the wise men were looking for Jesus (vs. 10a). Today, as the new year begins and the pace of life ticks up are we still “looking” for Jesus? I find it easy during the Christmas season to see Christ in all that surrounds us. Christmas trees, lights, nativity scenes, and gift giving to name a few – all pointing to the real reason for the season. However, as we enter 2016 and the symbols of Christmas disappear it is easy to become distracted.
I have to be honest, I have been inundated in 2016 with major distractions. An unexpected sickness has consumed my family since Jan, 1 which spoiled our vacation plans. I have been frustrated trying to salvage the situation and asking the Lord, why? I still don’t understand why, but I am learning to step back, affix my eyes on Jesus, and allow Him to make sense of these most unexpected moments of life? Again, as the pace of life increases are you still taking time to look for the Lord? He is the key to a transformative year!
Second, I noticed the actions of the wise men as they “encountered” Jesus. They rejoiced, fell down and worshiped Him. Sometimes I think we have become to civil in our attitude and actions during mass, adoration and even our personal prayer time. When the wise men encountered Jesus their reaction was to REJOICE (cheers) and FALL DOWN (humility) to worship the Lord. When was the last time we fell to our knees or even prostrate in gratitude for everything the Lord has done? When was the last time we stayed after mass to reflect on the gifts the Lord has lavished on us all? Do we enter the sanctuary with a sense of awe, wonder and expectation? Do we genuflect when given the opportunity to honor the very real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist?
I bring this up not to brow beat but to remind that our attitude affects our actions. See, I think it is easy for folks to wander into and out of our worship spaces without recognizing or even encountering the ONE in whom we worship. Life and time have a way of distracting us, dulling our excitement for faith, the development of a personal relationship with Christ and the Church. Faith becomes routine and over time devoid of the awe or inspiration that our Catholic faith should engender. Remember, upon entering to see the Christ child the wise men rejoiced, fell down and worshiped him. In 2016 take the opportunity to fully participate in your faith. Don’t be afraid to express yourself in ways that honor Christ. The wise men are our examples!
Third, they offered Jesus their best, in the form of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Let me simply say that we are called to give God our best. Since life and everything in it is a gift from God let us steward well those gifts and give generously. That will mean different things to different people but here are some questions I am asking myself in 2016. Am I properly supporting the parish through my financial gifts, time and talents that Christ has given me according to my ability. Am I making the type of personal decisions that open the door for me to be generous in these specific areas? Remember, God is not looking for more than you have. He is simply asking you to give your best each and every day. When all of us take this responsibility seriously we (& by default the Church) become a transformative force. Remember, living generously is contagious and fun. Take a chance in 2016 and give generously of your finances, time and talents. The Church needs you!
If you are looking for a pathway to assist you in encountering Christ in a dynamic way I want to offer these resources: http://communitiesofprayer.com/encounter This organization is headed by Tom Grossman and can assist you and your parish in developing a life of encountering Christ.
I am praying for you!