I would like to focus on 3 details found in today’s Gospel. At first glance, these details seem insignificant. But, upon further reflection, all 3 details have a profound meaning for us.
The 1st detail is contained in this passage: “There, ahead of them went the star,…until it stopped over the place where the child was…On entering the house, they saw the child”. The wise men do not find Mary and Jesus in a stable but in a house.
Leah Perrault, who serves as the Director of Pastoral Services for the Diocese of Saskatoon, wrote these remarks in the January 2021 edition of Living with Christ: “Somewhere after the unanticipated stable delivery, room was found for the fledgling family. The wise men go seeking Jesus surrounded by his family, held by another family”. What Leah Perrault is saying is that another family had made room for Jesus and his family in their home. The wise men encountered Jesus in that home.
However, this Gospel is not just retelling a story that happened 2,000 years ago. This event has meaning for us today. We are being invited to make room for Jesus in our homes. Our homes are intended to be places where we encounter Jesus.
Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, a well-known lecturer and writer, puts it this way: “What Christmas teaches us is that God is as much domestic as monastic, a God of the body as well as the soul, a God who is found in barns as well as churches, in kitchens as well as cathedrals”. Fr. Rolheiser’s point is that our homes are sacred because they are places where God is present, can be met and can be known.
Furthermore, the wise men saw that God was made flesh within the family relationships that existed in a home. Likewise with us, God is present within the family relationships that exist in our homes. A key message of this Gospel story about the wise men entering a house and finding the Son of God living in a family is that God loves family life. Family life is a gift from God.
Although our families are not perfect, and although there are many ups and downs in family life, our families are holy places, where God is made known. Pope Francis made these remarks during last Sunday’s Angelus remarks: “It is good to reflect on the fact that the Son of God wanted to be in need of the warmth of a family, like all children… Within the family one can experience sincere communion when it is a house of prayer, when the affections are serious, profound, pure, when forgiveness prevails over discord, when the daily harshness of life is softened by mutual tenderness and serene adherence to God’s will.”
With these words, the Pope is reaffirming that family life is sacred. One of Mother Theresa’s favorite sayings was, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family”.
The 2nd detail is found in this passage: “They knelt down and paid him homage”. The Gospel shows how Herod and the wise men respond to Jesus’ birth in totally opposite ways. Herod views Jesus as a disturbing threat to his political power and as a rival to be feared and eliminated. Unlike Herod, the wise men laid their precious gifts before the child and worshipped him.
This act signifies that the wise men are welcoming Jesus with open hearts and are accepting him as the ultimate desire of their hearts. Gold, frankincense and myrrh can be placed at Jesus’ feet because Jesus is now the treasure of their lives.
We are not only being invited to make room for Jesus in our homes and in our family life; we are invited to make room for him in our individual hearts. Not only are our homes and family life to be places of encounter with Jesus; our hearts are to be places of encounter with Jesus.
The ultimate house in which Jesus wants to live is in each of our hearts. That’s where he wants to be worshipped; that’s where he wants to rule and to reign supreme. Jesus wants to be the center and focus of our lives; he wants to be the treasure that we possess on the inside. As such, our hearts are sacred places.
The 3rd detail is found in this passage: “They left for their country by another road”. This is a biblical sign that, after their encounter with Jesus, the wise men were changed people. Their lives took on a higher purpose and a new direction. They just could not return by the same route.
Likewise with us, our encounters with Jesus through family life, prayer, the Sacraments, meditation on the Sacred Scriptures, the Church are meant to change us. We just can’t keep following the same path. How will we know if our lives are taking on a higher purpose or a new direction?
The answer is provided in the 2nd Reading. The Gospel tells us that the wise men “came from the East”. This signifies that they were non-Jews; they were not members of God’s chosen people; they were Gentiles. Notice the vocabulary of the 2nd Reading: “The Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body”.
The author of the website “Sacred Space” wrote: “Today’s celebration then is reminding us that for God there are no foreigners, no outsiders. Everyone can pray “our” Father. There is not one single exception. And if God is Father/Mother of every single person, then every single person in this world is my sister or brother”. What the author is saying is that, since every person is a child of God, every person we meet is sacred.
The author continues, “The call then today is to live my life in such a way that in my words to people and about people, in my actions with people, I will never act in any way except as a caring brother or sister”.
When we adopt such a life style perspective, we are recognizing the God-given inherent dignity and value of all people. At that point, our life naturally takes on a deeper meaning and a new direction. The feast of the Epiphany reminds us that God comes for all people and is with all people at all times.
As our Eucharist continues, let us ask God for 3 graces and blessings.
First, may our homes and family life be sacred places where there is room for Jesus and where he is present.
Second, may our hearts be sacred places where there is room for Jesus and where he is present.
Third, may our lives embrace a new direction where we view every individual we meet as sacred. May we come to see every human being as a brother or a sister.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
January 2 – 3, 2021