Sacred Heart

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Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Homily
Fr. Paul Ward

 

 

Sat., & Sun., Jan. 6 & 7, 2018
Epiphany

 

The Star, an Angelic Guide

 

   Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, when mages from the East came to honor our Lord. Monday, we will celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, and then right away begin ordinary time. Normally the Lord’s Baptism is observed on the first Sunday of Ordinary Time, but given the way the calendar falls, the feast is on Monday. I always relish ordinary time; for routine attracts me. Not the routine of doing things mechanically and without a heart; I mean a routine schedule, for I find it most healthy for soul and body, most efficient for the use of one’s time and generally the most productive.

   The Epiphany provides many points of meditation, points we have touched in the past or will in the future: Christ the Light, Christ who is Revealed, Revelation itself, Christianity before the non-Christian world (an important point for our times), the symbolism of the three gifts and the abominable plot of the tyrant Herod, just to mention a few. But today I wish to focus on the star. The star led the pagan Magi from the East right to the new born Son of God. We don’t know how many Magi there were, there may have been three as three gifts were given, but the scriptures do not state exactly how many.

   In our modern times, scientists like to attempt to research things in such a way that all the miracles of the scriptures can be explained away by natural phenomena. For example, the flood killing the Egyptians in the Red Sea was simply a seasonal tide, so they say; and what problems the six days of creation causes such people. And so many will say this was an ordinary star or meteorite in the sky, and the Magi simply interpreted the star in such a religious way. Of course, this type of mindset, which we may call the empirical mindset, totally misses the point, and then promotes the modernist heresy of reducing religion to pure subjectivism and religious feeling.

   I, and not only I (cf. Chrysostom in Aquinas, Catena, at 2:2, p. 67), say that this was not an ordinary star, but something miraculous, and perhaps and angel. And from the following meditation, we can learn more about how to let our own guardian angel be a guiding star leading us to Jesus Christ the Lord.

   The star is mentioned four times in this passage. 1.) The Kings or Magi say they saw it “in the east” (v. 2). This could mean that they were in the east when they saw it, but also that the star itself was in the east. 2.) Herod inquires of it (v. 7). 3.) The star reappears to them and then leads them somehow to the exact spot of the Holy Family (v. 9). 4.) It fills them with joy (v. 10).

   Some things argue that this is not an ordinary star. First, they saw it, then they did not see it, then they saw it again (in v. 10). Furthermore, it brought them to one spot. No star could do that, way up in the sky. Every star is above us, and if any human attempted to use a star as a pinpoint on the map, he would walk until he died never getting to any one location. Give it a try and test it for yourself: follow a star, and see whether it brings to to just one point. More still, when the star reappeared in v. 10, the Magi recognized it, distinguishing it from every other star.

   We said a few weeks ago how angels permeate the whole narration of the nativity of Christ. There are angels everywhere in these passages; and for that, I spoke that weekend of the nine choirs of angels and other doctrines we know about them. We also know that stars are used often in the sacred scriptures – sometimes to mean the sons of Abraham, or other things, but also as angels (eg., cf. Baruch 3:34, Is 14:13, Dan 3:23, Dan 8:10; 1 Corinthians 15:41; Rev. 12:4, etc.). You may be more familiar with the breathtaking passage of the war in heaven, where St. Michael the Archangel, whom we invoke and venerate in this parish, cast Satan out of heaven; but when he fell, he swept a third of the stars from the sky, meaning that he took some portion of the angels, not the majority with him into hell to burn forever. There is a passage in Daniel somewhat similar (Dan 8:10).

   Therefore, it is not impossible that the Holy Spirit, through St. Matthew, in today’s Gospel, is telling us that an angel appeared to these Magi in the east and brought them directly to Jesus Christ. St. Augustine asserts as much (Serm. 374,1). He asks, How did the Magi know that the appearance of this star had this meaning, that the king of the Jews was born, and that they should bring him gifts? He concludes it was by an angel who revealed as much to them; and it was a good angel, not a fallen angel or demon, because he instructed them to go to Jesus and not away from him, and to honor him rather than do him evil as Herod had planned.

   So this star was either a miraculous light created by God, who does all his miracles through his angels, resembling a star, and appearing, disappearing, and appearing again, and moving in such a way as to direct these men to the Christ child, or it was an angel who manifested his presence to them and instructed them by word or intellectual communication.

   Therefore, this star served as a “messenger,” and this is what the word “angel” means in its etymological origin; for in ancient Greek, in which today’s text was originally written (I reject the “Matthew in Aramaic first” version as there is no real evidence of it), the word for messenger is “angelos.” And this angel, this star, this messenger did only one thing: it brought the creatures to the creator, the pagans to the true God, the Magi to Jesus Christ who was and is always with Mary and Joseph.

   How can we apply all this to our own lives? I think we can compare our travelling in this world to the journey of the Magi in various ways. They were not alone, nor are we; our live if essentially a religious pilgrimage before anything else, as was theirs; but also in this, that on their way they were guided by an angel.

   We too, each one of us, is guided by an angel. The angels are beautiful, powerful to the point of being terrible and mighty, but they are full of love for God the Holy Trinity and for us whom the help. They always behold the face of God; they never abandon us; they love us as friends; they help us conceive and perceive God’s inspirations in ways too supernatural for us to understand; they protect us against demons and temptations; they watch us when we sleep; they are witnesses to all our deeds, be they good or evil; they assist us in death; they console the souls of purgatory; and they will join us forever in heaven.

   Pray often to your guardian angel. You probably will not hear voices, or will not see a light or star as the Magi. But trust that they are helping you, in ways that you cannot feel or see. And may the Angels lead us to Jesus, where he is with Mary his Virginal Mother and Joseph who cared for them both. Amen.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Librevia Editrice Vaticana

 

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Archives of Homilies on Elijah during Lent 2016

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Archives of Homilies on the New English Translation