Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gazing Up At the Stars

"We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." (Matthew 2:2)
When I was a child, our family would spend our summer weekends in the Florida Keys.  The night sky is a lot clearer down south than it is here in the city.  At night, I would go over by the water and just gaze up at the numerous stars up in the sky.  I was always fascinated by outer space.  I was a Star Trek and Star Wars fan.  I had a small telescope.  I still remember when Haley's Comet made its pass by our small planet.  I was captivated by the possibilities of what laid beyond "the surly bonds of Earth."  Since I was a child, I would always look for the brightest star in the sky and assume that was the star the Jesus was born under--the same star the Magi saw at its rising and followed the Bethlehem.  What must have gone through these wise mens' minds when they saw this star appear?
The Feast of the Epiphany used to be a pretty big deal.  It still is in the Church, but not so much in the world.  Today we celebrate, as the preface of the Mass says, the revelation of "the mystery of our salvation in Christ as a light for the nations."  Jesus did not come to just save the Jews, but to save the entire world.  You see all of Judea should have been at Mary and Joseph's front door waiting to do this child homage.  The innkeeper that turned them away should have offered them his own home.  This was the child that all of Israel had been waiting for, yet, apart from the shepherds, the only ones that came to do him homage were three Gentile strangers from the East.  Pope Benedict pointed out in his Epiphany homily that with the Magi's journey from the East towards Christ, humanity also begins its pilgrimage towards its Redeemer.  While the response may have been slow at first, many nations would soon come to recognize Christ as their Messiah and King as we do today.  Like the Magi, our hearts are constantly searching.  Searching for answers to great mysteries.  This is why we have constantly gazed up at the stars because we long to know the great unknown.  What lies beyond that which is around us?  Only God could properly satisfy the curiousity he himself placed in our hearts.  The Magi had the restless hearts that St. Augustine spoke about that could only be satisfied by the presence of God.  That is why they prostrated themselves before the Child.  They were in the presence of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  In concluding his homily on Friday, the Holy Father in a stroke of genius turns the tables a bit on this restless heart analogy:  "But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth."  And this unrest that lies in the heart of God is passed on to us so that we may bring the light of his presence to all the world.
Today, like the Magi, we are searching for something that will bring us fulfillment, contentment, joy and peace.  Our search sometimes leads us down wrong paths, but we ultimately come back here, to this manger, to this altar, to this church in order to find that which our hearts truly long for.  A world filled with darkness has been flooded by God's radiant light.  Stargazing is fun, but like those first astronaut pioneers that ventured past our orbit 50 years ago, there comes a time when we must stop gazing and start exploring what lies beyond.  We have spent two weeks gazing upon this glorious scene of the manger.  Now it is time for us to stop gazing and to start exploring what lies in the heart of God.