Years ago a priest in the diocese got a Christmas card featuring the three wise men. The front of the card was a decorative image of the three kings with their gifts, but the inside of the card said just one simple sentence. And every year on the feast of the Epiphany, this priest would give his shortest homily for the whole year by repeating that one sentence: “wise men still seek him”.
…… but I’m not Fr. Ralph so the homily isn’t stopping just yet.
Are we wise? Do we seek him? We call the magi “the wise men” because they sought out Christ without knowing what this little infant truly meant to the world. They saw a star and interpreted it as meaning that a king had been born, so they went to offer homage to a king important enough to be noted by the heavens. But they didn’t know that this child would be something more than an earthly king. Even if they knew that the Jewish people were awaiting a messiah to bring them salvation in the sense of overthrowing their Roman oppressors, these magi weren’t Jewish. To them, this child was not going to be their king and he wasn’t going to be their messiah. The magi were wise men because they sought out Christ to give him homage when they couldn’t possibly know the truth of who Christ really was.
Are we wise? Do we seek him? Because unlike the magi, we have an incredible advantage — we know who Christ is and we know what he has done for us. We come to give him homage not just for his birth, but for his death — we know him to be not just a king, but a savior. The magi were wise for recognizing the action of God in their day, but we have a wisdom that comes through faith, a wisdom that can recognize the action of God throughout all of creation. The feast of the Epiphany is not about remembering the story of the magi, it is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, being revealed to all nations. The magi were the first to receive that revelation, but we are the fulfillment.
So we are wise, thanks to the gift of faith, but do we still seek him? One of the great dangers of the spiritual life is letting our faith grow still. We find a routine of mass and form of prayer that we like and some charitable works we’re comfortable with… and our encounter with God grows stagnate. We stop expecting the dramatic, we stop trying to understand God in a new depth… we stop seeking him. One of the professors in the seminary, a great priest and tremendous spiritual director, used to always remind us that there is no such thing as standing still in the spiritual life; in our relationship with God, we either move forward or we move backwards… you can’t stand still. You are either seeking the Lord, or you are not.
So as this new year begins, what do anticipate is going to happen in your faith life during the coming year? If you think that you will have no significant encounter with God, that you will be sitting here one year from now with the same understanding of God and the same experience of him in your life… then you aren’t seeking him, and you’re slowly sliding backwards in the spiritual life. The prophet Isaiah said that when the Lord comes, you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow… [n]ations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. I don’t know if it will be in some major life event or if it will be in the quiet of your daily life… but God is seeking to give you a vision of that light. In the epiphany Jesus Christ was revealed to the world, and now he seeks to be revealed to your heart. Seek out that revelation and that presence.
Wise men still seek him.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.