The Guidance of God
Where I grew up occasionally at night, there would be a faint glowing in the sky, and a few times when I came home at night from Downtown Baton Rouge, I could see a massive fire in the distance. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about! This one of the Dow Chemical Stacks giving off its excess chemicals, and you can see it for miles. I even heard that Pilots, as they approached New Orleans Airport, asked Air Traffic Control what is that bright light near Baton Rouge? If you wanted to find your way to the Dow Chemical Plant when that flare is going just follow the light.
Today we celebrate the Epiphany, and we are told that the wise men followed a bright star. I’m not suggesting that what the saw was a flare from a chemical plant but may be able to picture what it was like to follow a bright light for a long distance. We don’t know what this light was, but it helped the Wise Men find the Child in an obscure manger in an insignificant town.
The wise men were seeking out the newborn king. They had been sent by Herod who had bad intentions of his own to find this baby whom he thought might be a threat to his own rule. The prophets foretold of the Messiah’s coming and that he would be a new king. The three Magi saw this bright star as a sign of the newborn king as it has been foretold by the prophets. So they followed the star until they found the place where it was over.
What they found may not have been what they were expecting. Isaiah tells us that nations and kings shall walk by the light of the Glory of the Lord. All these nations and kings will gather from afar because they followed the light. However, when they came to where the light led them, they find an infant with his mother and his father. Not adorned with great wealth or clothing or surrounded by royalty. Rather just in a humble place to rest. However, the arrival of these three kings, these three magi bearing gifts foreshadows what this infant will come to accomplish.
The psalm tells us, Lord every nation on earth will adore you. If you know the story of the Old Testament, you know the Jewish people were chased out of their land and exiled not just once but three times. The prophets promised that God would send a messiah to restore Jerusalem and bring back all the people who were scattered. However, our Lord not only came to restore the tribes of Israel, rather he came to bring about a new Jerusalem, a Jerusalem that all nations would come to and follow its light.
It makes me think of that flare that is visible for miles again. However, I also think about some Churches in more rural areas. Where I’m assigned to Donaldsonville, our main Church ascension has a very tall steeple. If you see it from the right angle, you can see it from a few miles away. Also, where my grandparents live in Ohio, many of those Churches have steeples, and because of the flat farm land, you can see those churches from miles away. Just like the wise men followed the star in a way you could follow the steeples and find the Church. Many times Churches were built in the center of the city, so it was an easy place to get to and it naturally drew people in.
God calls us to follow him in our lives, but he didn’t leave us a star to follow as the wise men followed. However, he did leave us something that we can follow in our own lives and by its guidance can find the Lord and receive salvation. Jesus left us through his apostles the Church. I don’t just mean the Church buildings where we gather and worship God, I also mean the entire body of the Church, all of the people in the Church. The Pope, the Bishops, priests, religious, you and me and everyone else who calls themselves Catholic.
God through the Church gives us many helps to follow him and to grow in holiness and love of God and our neighbor. The Church has given us 2000 years of teaching on the scriptures, on the moral life and many other things. God through his Church gave us the Scriptures and through the world of the Church God’s word is preached to all nations. God has called priests, lay leaders, religious brothers and sisters to be a help and a guide to our lives and to help us find our Lord.
Sometimes in our lives, we may feel lost and not know where to go. Unlike the magi we don’t have a bright light to follow. However, Jesus did leave us his Church, his kingdom on earth to act as a light for us to follow. On this feast of the Epiphany may we trust in God and his Church so we may follow him and come to salvation!