Bottom line: On Epiphany Sunday we see the three types of people: Those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him. Astrology can have some place for the second type, but not the first.
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany: The visit of the Magi to Jesus. I'd like to begin my homily with a quote from Blaise Pascal. He was a seventeenth century scientist who - among other things - invented a calculating machine that became the forerunner for the modern computer. Those of us who pull out our hair (what little is left) in front of computers can forgive Pascal for that. What interests me on today's Feast is this quote:
"There are only three types of people; those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him. The first are rational and happy; the second unhappy and rational, and the third foolish and unhappy."*
We see those three types represented in our readings at Christmas time. Among the the foolish and unhappy is King Herod. He pretends to seek God, but his real concern is to defend his power - and his pleasures. But he was far from happy. Tortured by suspicions, he murdered members of his own family, including his wife, Mariamne, and two sons. This caused the Emperor Augustus to remark, "“I would rather be Herod's pig (hus) than his son (huios) ." Herod - in an extreme way - represents the class of people who neither seek nor find God.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who have found God and serve him. Two obvious examples are St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary. We can also include the shepherd in that happy group.
In the middle are the Magi. They represent all honest seekers. From the Greek "magoi" we get our English word "magic" or "magician." They were not ellusionists like modern magicians, but rather they studied the heavens and tried to figure out the relationship between the stars and what is happening on earth. They were part astonomer and past astrologer. The Magi are also called "Wise Men" because they followed celestials signs that lead them to Christ.
We do not know what those signs were. The Chicago Planetarium has a famous presentation on the Star of Bethlehem. Recreating the heavens at the time of Christ birth - and speculate that the "star" may have been a comet, a conjunction of planets or some other astronomical event. Whatever it was, it led the Magi to Jerusalem, then to Bethlehem. When they arrived at the dwelling of Joseph and Mary, they stopped being seekers. They worshipped the child, that is, they acknowledge him as God. And they gave gifts that represented Jesus' kingship, his divinity and his priesthood.
Now, I mentioned that the Magi were astologers. Astrology can lead a person to God. A recent poll revealed that 34% of American believe in astrology. It is better to believe in astology than, for example, to believe in mindless evolution. Still, for a Christian, astrology can have no ultimate place. You will notice that when the Magi found Christ, they no longer looked to the stars. God guided them in a more direct way.
In the bulletin this Sunday, I gave you a quote from the Catechism.** It clearly states that astrology is a form of idolatry - a sin against the first commandment: I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me. God is a jealous God. In his case the jealousy is proper and logical. He does have a complete and total claim on us. He created us and redeemed us.
So, while astrology may have some place for those seeking God, it has no place for those who - like the Magi - have now found God and serve him. Remember the three types of people: "Those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him." I hope no one here is in the category of Herod, who neither seeks nor finds God. Those who honestly seek God, will find him. But best, like Joseph and Mary, like the shepherd and now the Magi, the Wise Men: to find God and serve him.
And, now, I invite you to listen to the Proclamation of the Date of Easter 2010.
*A comparison: Suppose a friend (who you know is not crazy nor given to practical jokes) calls you and tells you that Bill Gates is at the Monroe Library. He is giving a million dollars to everyone who goes there in the next half hour. Would it not be reasonable to get into your car and find out? Even if you lived Sultan or Gold Bar. I doubt you would say, "Oh, I am too busy right now. Maybe I will seek Bill Gates out some other time." Or: "Darn, why doesn't Bill Gates come to my house? My place is as good as the library!" No, it would be reasonable to seek him out. And to find him with checkbook in hand would be happiness. How much more reasonable to seek God and how much greater happiness to find him!
**Here is the relevant section:
2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.
General Intercessions for Epiphany (from Priests for Life)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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Fr. Frank Pavone: Reid Health Care Bill Is A Gift Americans Won’t Accept
U.S. Bishops: The current health care reform bill is “deficient” and should not move forward without “essential changes,” the chairmen of three committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The legislative proposal now advancing “violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions -- a policy upheld in all health programs covered by the Hyde Amendment as well as in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program -- and now in the House-passed ‘Affordable Health Care for America Act,’” the bishops said.
They said that the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives “keeps in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of elective abortions and plans that include elective abortions” and “ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions.” The Senate bill does not maintain this commitment.
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