Bottom line: I ask God that like the Magi - those Wise Men - a star will lead you to Jesus, that you will give Jesus your best gift. And receive from him three presents.
2020 was a challenging year. For me it began with a broken leg that soon blended with the pandemic. Others suffered much more than I. But the year ended with a good sign: the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn right before Christmas. Astronomers speculate that the Magi may have seen such a sign. They say to King Herod: "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."
The Magi were early astronomers. They represent men of science through the ages who went from natural wonder to faith in God. One of my favorites is Niels Steensen, known by the Latin version of his name: Stenno. He is considered the "father of geology". Later in life he had a conversion to the Catholic faith and eventually became a bishop. You can read about him in a book titled "The Seashell on the Mountaintop".
Our own Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg got a degree in geology before entering the seminary - one more evidence that science and faith can go well together. Science can open up vistas that lead to faith. That's what we see in our Gospel: "And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was...they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage."
They brought gifts for the child - wonderful gifts! In another year I might go into depth about those gifts. Today I'd like to tell you about the three other presents. I'm indebted to Bishop Bob Barron for this. Bishop Barron took the old question: If a genie appeared to you and said you could have three wishes, what would you ask for? He responded that the first and most essential gift is faith. Here's the logic:
Without faith one's world would be very small - like living your life in broom closet. For example I know about the galaxies, not because I have seen them but because I believe the scientists. They also tell about subatomic particles: electrons and protons, bosons and six types of quarks. I've never seen them, but I take their word for it. Faith. Similarly I know about Abraham Lincoln because I believe historians. And even though I've never travelled to China, I'm certain that country exists. How? Because I accept the converging testimony of others.* Just so, I know about Jesus because I trust the Bible and believe the testimony of his early followers. And I have the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. Faith - not an irrational faith, but a considered faith - takes a person out of a tiny, self-enclosed world.
From faith flows a second gift - hope. By hope life has meaning - it's not just some random process. In the morning it's worthwhile getting out of bed, if a person has hope. This world is a valley of tears: always was and always will be. For sure life has wonderful moments, but overall -no matter how much money and good health a person has, this earthly life is like St. Theresa of Avila describes it - a bad night in a bad inn. Ultimately only hope keeps a person moving forward.
Faith and hope open a person to the greatest gift - love. Love builds on faith and hope. Love makes life bearable. Without love, life is what Hobbes described: a war of all against all. Love, however, involves forgiveness, patience, forbearance, thoughtfulness. St. Paul says, "love hopes all things". Love wants the best for each person - their eternal salvation. St. Paul sums it up this way: "These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Speaking of love, I'm thankful for the affection you have shown me, especially at Christmas. I cannot repay you. I ask God that like the Magi - those Wise Men - a star will lead you to Jesus, that you will give Jesus your best gift. And receive from him three presents. They are presents that no one can purchase, only ask the Holy Spirit for them: faith, hope and love. Amen.
*And if I did travel there, it could all still be some elaborate scheme for extracting money from naïve bumpkins like me.
Spanish Version (Word document)
From Archives (Epiphany Sunday)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru