Star of Wonder - Evangelization's Journey
“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
The “wise men” about whom we hear each Epiphany are a group of people shrouded in mystery. Who were they, really? Some say astrologers who advised local leaders – like viziers. Some say that they were the equivalent of ancient scientists, delving into the mysteries of the universe. Others say that they were wealthy and powerful travelers, like the “three kings” we sing about this time of year. Whoever they were, each Christmas they appear, following the Star of Bethlehem, encountering the Lord, and disappearing from the pages of the Bible – much to King Herod’s chagrin!
But why are they so central to this experience? After all, Jesus is the newborn King of the Jews, the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. What would a group of eastern stargazers have to do with this event?
These wanderers are you and I. They are the same as all human beings on our journey through this life. They are moving toward “something”; and they know that this is something significant. The Epiphany is about our deeply human search for God that is at the heart of all religious experience. It is about holy longing and God’s merciful love that reveals Himself to our world – to us – to you. In fact, it is why I am a Christian.
I believe that the Universe exists and that it began at some point in time and space, from which point much of scientific research has shown it to be expanding (the so-called “Big Bang theory”). I believe that such a beginning required energy to induce/create that beginning and that this “prime energy” necessarily had to exist outside of that primordial “stuff.” Philosophers have referred to such an “energy” as the “Prime-“ or “Unmoved Mover.” I call it God. Therefore, I believe that God created the Universe, everything in it, and established laws by which it operates. The result of this operation has been the creation of human beings, who have also been endowed with reason by God as His way of connecting with us. He did this because of His infinite love.
Because we share that gift of reason, we have an innate desire to “know beyond knowledge” and to touch that which is outside of our rational experience. Therefore, God also gave us the gift of Faith in order to reach out beyond that limit of knowledge. In time, God revealed Himself to us – particularly through the People of Israel, as we read in the Bible, inspired by God. This revelation was God’s gift to bring us into deeper knowledge of Him and His will. This same God, out of His deep desire to be united with us, ultimately became man in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus reveals to us the true nature of man, as well as that of God, and in Him we have communion with God through Faith. In addition to His earthly ministry, Jesus established the Church to continue to bring people together with God and one another. And here we are.
Following this journey is the story of evangelization. It means moving from the real, honest questions that we have about life, the world, and our place in all of this; and it means discovering the answer to those questions. Evangelization for us means presenting to others a relationship with Someone who reveals the meaning of life, of our place in the world, and of a love greater than any we can imagine. It is not presenting a set of facts or a bunch of “knowledge.” That’s not what the wise men found. Nope. They found a child. They found Jesus.
Jesus is the end point of evangelization; faith is the goal. This faith then leads us to want to know more, and that is the role of catechesis, but it necessarily comes after coming to know Jesus in a real and personal way. You and I have been drawn into this journey; we walk it together. No matter how much “stuff” we know about our faith, it means nothing if we have never encountered the Child and known the love that God has for us – that deep, personal, and transformative love.
So, I invite you to rediscover that love – or discover it for the first time! This year, we will be working to provide opportunities to grow in our relationship with Christ, as well as to share the faith with our children. To that end, I invite you to set aside a weekend at the end of February for an evangelization retreat offered at Christ the King, called “New Life.” We will share more information in the weeks to come, but on the weekend of February 26 & 27, we will spend time reflecting on the message of the Gospel and what it means for our lives – not “stuff about Jesus,” but Jesus Himself, a real encounter with the Lord. This is what the wise men experienced, and it is what we all need; it’s what the world needs. Is your relationship with Christ worth that journey?
Over these past two years, I feel like I have been wandering sometimes – often aimlessly. However, Jesus is here, and He wants us to know Him. That longing in our hearts will still be there this time next year if we do not do something about it, if we do not - as the wise men did - step out of our comfortable doors and journey toward God. Let’s journey together.