Epiphany 2018
God used to be in our way all the time. You could not avoid God in your daily life. It was certainly true in Jesus’ time. Every moment was shaped by the law of God: what utensils you used, what food you ate and with whom you ate it, even how and when you bathed were signs of your relationship with God. And so it was throughout the centuries. I can imagine my grandmother’s hometown in Italy where the church bells were a summons and the church stood in the middle of town for it was the middle of life. When these churches and our school was built in the fifties, it was more than just a place to worship; it was where dances were held, where you met your friends – a second home. Even in my childhood, there was no competition on Sunday mornings. Everything was closed. You could not buy gasoline. And we were glad for it because Dad got to go to church with us because by New York State law, the bar he owned could not open up until noon.
It was a sign that life pivoted around God. God at the center of our lives and our culture. But we obviously do not live in those times now. Everything is open. Even sports teams hold practices on Sunday mornings. God now is caught only by our peripheral vision on on the side of the highway; a blurred object easy to ignore. God is not in the way. We live in the age of the Magi. We have to seek out God.
The story of the Magi might even suggest why faith is not so central now. No one who seeks Christ merely finds him. We experience him and we are changed by the encounter. The Magi met Jesus and offered their best stuff: gold, frankincense and myrrh. We too are called to leave our best with Jesus for our gifts, talents and blessings are not ours, but God’s. It really is a question of ownership. God is the origin of our gifts and they must have been given to us to share with all. There is a problem however. We like our stuff and want to keep it. We are called to surrender what we treasure the most; to lay at the feet of Christ so he can employ these gifts for all. And that bring us to the second problem of the Magi. They are told in a dream to depart by another way to avoid Herod. We are encouraged by our encounter with Jesus to take a path not of our own choosing. Our calendars, agendas and goals change. Even our purpose is redirected to follow the way of the Lord. Living life for others changes our definitions. Justice is not a reflection of how fairly I have been treated, but what is fair to all. Peace is not what makes me feel good, but the necessary condition for all to thrive. Love is not about how well I am loved, but how well I have loved.
Then why bother? Why not go with the flow of traffic and leave this inconvenient God by the side of the road? Why surrender and sacrifice our precious gifts? Why give others an advantage by putting them first? Because it is what the designer of the road has asked from us. It was meant to be shared by all and not walked in isolation for that is a guarantee of desolate loneliness. To live for one’s self is the opposite of love for that always begins with the other. Instead we are called push the boundaries of love and grace. To connect, to share and to bless. To make love the only measure of our success.
Let us choose the way of the Magi. Let us seek out God for there we find our humanity and are blessed with Christ’s divinity. Let us surrender our best for investing it in others leads to a hundred fold return. Let us take the path the Lord provides and walk in the soothing sunlight of mercy. Let us follow the star that leads to our salvation.