By the ninth century we named the Magi as Melchoir, Caspar, and Balthasar and described their physical features in order to emphasize Christ’s coming for all nations and people. Furthermore, in his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, the Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict XVI proposes that the three Magi represent the three stages of life: youth, maturity, and old age and we meet Christ at all these stages.
How do we understand these Magi that adored the babe of Bethlehem? Pope Benedict XVI describes them as members of the Persian Priestly caste or rulers of a distinctive religion. On the other hand, they could be possessors and users of supernatural knowledge and ability, magicians, deceivers and seducers. The scriptures give us these two extremes of the Magi found both in today’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.
Today, we hear of the Magi being those who seek truth and wisdom. They were astronomers that were searching for the deepest meaning of religion that would move them to an inner change and towards a real and authentic encounter with the one true God. The star was their hope, but they would not have set out on this journey to find the new born king unless they knew for sure that he would change their lives forever. Dare I propose that there was a fourth companion in their midst: me.
Now, I do not propose to have supernatural knowledge or claim to be a magician like the magi of biblical times. Quite the opposite is true. I have spent most of his life searching for God; searching for a real and authentic encounter with the one they call Jesus. All throughout my teenage years I saw how this Jesus, born in the cave of Bethlehem, touched the lives of so many of my friends who were caught up in a life apart from God. To be honest, I was not always strong in my baptismal faith and for a brief while I explored many different religions and avenues of life, in search for Truth that would rock my core.
Many things happened along the journey of my young adult life, but there was one star that God radiantly shone in the heavens that has forever etched my heart. In a time when I doubted my faith and my vocation, God sent me a young lady by the name of Cecilia whom I met while attending San Francisco State University as a Music Major. Cecilia was the only one in the dormitory who had a rosary hanging on her door knob amidst a hall of college party students and with a sign that invited any one to pray the rosary at her dorm at 6pm every day. Cecilia was a girl from the city Bay Point and lived a life of hard partying, wrong boyfriends, misleading friends, and as her story goes, she hit rock bottom before she he met her one true love: Jesus.
That year, when I met Cecilia, the radiance of her faith and her love for Jesus Christ was so attractive that I had to follow where she was leading. And where did she lead me? She led me to 6:30am daily Mass at Saint Dominic Parish in San Francisco for a solid year and countless conversations on faith over a cup of coffee every morning.
It’s funny how God works because my patron saint is Saint Cecilia, and God brought me a young lady, a radiant star, named after such a great martyr, who not only called me back to truth, but made me fall in love with Jesus in the Eucharist. It finally hit, this is where it all happens. This is where it is all real. Her love for Jesus pointed me to a journey I least expected for my young adult life. After much discernment, after much running away for other possibilities, after much grappling with God’s will, and finally after falling into trust, I responded to God’s invitation which I knew had been there since my early teenage years.
I have to tell you that this Feast Day of the Epiphany holds a very special place in my heart. Seven years ago, on this very Feast, Cecilia joined many of my friends at my home parish in Vallejo, as the pastor invited me to speak at the Mass and announce for the first my decision and intention to enter the seminary and pursue a vocation to be a priest for Jesus Christ.
The scriptures say today that after worshipping the new born king, the magi departed by another way. Of course they did! Because no one comes to Christ returning the same way they came. That is very true for Cecilia and I. I am on my journey with you pointing to the priesthood of Christ in the next few years and Cecilia is now in Honduras on mission bringing the gospel of Christ to the children and engaged to the man God has prepared for her whom she will marry this July.
Who is the radiant star in your life that points to Jesus? Who are those heroes and heroines of faith who move you on a journey to love Jesus Christ and to realize the depth and meaning of having Jesus in the very center of your life? Pay attention to them for they will always point the way to Jesus and his mother.
Finally, today is a day of gifs. I do not have gold, frankincense, or myrrh. [“What gift can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb, if I were I wise man I would do my part.”] The only gift I have is a gift you give someone to express that you want them close to you at all times. It is my watch.
O Christ Child, seven years ago, I responded to the whisper of your gentle voice to follow you. Today, I give you this watch symbolizing that every second, minute, hour, and moment of my life is yours, O Christ. I worship you and pray that this gift, as simple and as broken as it is, is pleasing to you. O Christ Child, Son of Mary, who revealed himself by the guidance of a star, you are not only worth my time, you are worth my life.