Monday, January 13, 2014

Welcome, Outsider!

O God, who by the star this day revealed Your only-begotten Son to all nations, grant that we, who know You now by faith, may be brought one day before the vision of Your majesty. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. —Collect of the Feast of the Epiphany

Praised Be Jesus!

I hope that everyone enjoyed the Christmas season; remember to keep the joy of the season ever alive in your hearts! Yesterday, we celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Traditionally, our Lord's baptism was one of the three Gospel events commemorated in the Epiphany, along with the Wedding at Cana and, of course, the visitation of the Magi. (Indeed, our Eastern friends still celebrate the Theophany of Christ by commemorating His baptism.) But as we close the Octave of the Epiphany, let's take a closer look at the Magi.

We see them every year when we set up our Nativity scenes: the three mysterious wise men, usually decked out in turbans or crowns, bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but do we ever give them any thought? By Tradition, the Church names these men Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; they were men, as Scripture points out, from the east; and they were not of the Jewish faith or practice. From more historical research, these men were probably Persian Zoroastrian priests, who were greatly versed in both astrology and astronomy. They came seeking the King of Israel, but Whom they encountered was so much more than that; Whom they encountered was the God of the Universe.

Imagine the Magi asking Mary if they could hold Him, if they could look upon His sacred face, and Mary handing Him to them with great joy and tender love, and without hesitation. Do we do the same? Do we give others Jesus, as Mary did? Do we share His light with those around us? Do we proclaim Him as the source of our joy? Or do we keep Him to ourselves, only showing Him to those we have deemed worthy? Are we so caught up in our own purism of Christianity that we've forgotten how to evangelize with a smile and without hostility, to welcome those who are outside of our ranks, those who do not think or believe as we do?

The Magi are just that: outsiders, The Other. And Mary gives Jesus, and I'm more than certain that that encounter changed their lives forever, and the fruit of the encounter resulted in conversion. Hearts are changed when people encounter Christ in us, including our own hearts. As we communicate His love, hearts are changed — our hearts are changed more into His. When we stand for our faith, but even more important, when we live our faith, may it not be a long, begrudging list of doctrines and laws that must be followed, but a living love affair with the Person of Jesus Christ. Like Mary, we should be happy to hand Christ to the outsider — to allow him to smile on His sacred face and hold Him in his arms — and from this encounter, a stream of grace will flow, and many hearts will be converted.

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