What does it mean to be a star?
In the world, a star is a celebrity. The focus is on the star. It is the point of attraction. Sometimes we speak of reaching for the stars, meaning to realize the impossible dream. The star in today’s gospel is different from the movie stars because it points to Jesus the Light of the World and the light to the Gentiles. Even then, Jesus’ mission was not to draw us to Himself but to the Father. “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.” (Jn 17:4
) “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.” (Jn 17:6
) “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (Jn 17:26
Jesus was called to be more than a star. He was a light in the darkness. This was what the prophet Simeon prophesied. “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Lk 2:30-32) Indeed, Jesus was called to be the hope for those in darkness and in sorrow. He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel and the Gentiles. “Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you, though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples. Above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears. The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness.” He came for the forlorn and the downhearted. He came not just for Israel but for all nations. The psalmist said, “The kings of Tarshish and the sea coasts shall pay him tribute. The kings of Sheba and Seba shall bring him gifts. Before him all kings shall fall prostrate, all nations shall serve him.”
Jesus is the star fulfilling everyone’s dreams. He was the dream of Israel come true. “Lift up your eyes and look round: all are assembling and coming towards you, your sons from far away and your daughters being tenderly carried. At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart throbbing and full; since the riches of the sea will flow to you, the wealth of the nations come to you; camels in throngs will cover you, and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; everyone in Sheba will come, bringing gold and incense and singing the praise of the Lord.” There would be peace and justice in the land. Israel would become great once again, filled with the blessings of God.
This is what the Constitution of the Church in the Modern world reiterates, “The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through His Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. Nor has any other name under the heaven been given to man by which it is fitting for him to be saved. She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point and the goal of man, as well as of all human history. The Church also maintains that beneath all changes there are many realities which do not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ, Who is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” (GS 10.3)
How is He the Star? Jesus came to live among us. In His incarnation, He took upon our humanity to be a leader for us in salvation. He chose to be born in the manger rather than in a palace. He came to be identified with the poor and the marginalized in society. “For he shall save the poor when they cry and the needy who are helpless. He will have pity on the weak and save the lives of the poor.” Jesus came to live amongst us.
The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh given to the infant child foreshadowed what the child would be. He was called to be a king who would rule the world with justice. “O God, give your judgement to the king, to a king’s son your justice, that he may judge your people in justice and your poor in right judgement. In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails. He shall rule from sea to sea, from the Great River to earth’s bounds.” He would also be a high priest who offered himself as a victim and sacrifice for the salvation of humanity. He would be the bridge that reconciles man with God and God with man. Through His intercession, our prayers are heard. Finally, He would be God’s servant unto death, the total giving of Himself for the salvation of humanity and the world. By offering Himself on the cross, He would be victorious over death by His resurrection.
On this feast of Epiphany, we too are called to be His stars. We are called to be a light in darkness. We too are called to be sign of hope for the forlorn. We are to be His agents for justice and mercy. Through our works of mercy and compassion, we are called to reach out to those who are living in the shadow of death and in darkness. That was what Christ did when He was on earth. He came for the poor, the sick, the wounded, the marginalized and the outcasts. Through His works of mercy, healing and compassion, He brought many back to God.
In the final analysis, we are to reveal the mystery of God’s plan in Christ as St Paul did. The whole purpose of Christ’s works, that is, the miracles, was not just to help the sick or deliver those who were possessed, but to point them to the mercy and love of the Father so that they would know the goal of life, their origin and destiny. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (Jn 14:6) So in our humanitarian works, we must be careful that we do not simply stop at saving the lives of people or making them feel loved and cared for, but we want to give them nothing less than Jesus. St Paul wrote, “You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.”
Hence, we must be mindful that there will be Herods around to deceive us. We must be prudent and ensure that what we do will not be used by others for their personal and political interests. The works of mercy of the Church is purely humanitarian with a spiritual motive. It has nothing to do with the world’s social, economic or political stratagems and ideologies. We must not allow ourselves to be used as tools by other organizations that have an agenda in collaborating with us. Christian charity is not done with the motive of proselytizing either. We do not make of use charity to make converts or coerce them into conversion. We must dissociate with them as the Magi did with Herod who used deceptive means to achieve his selfish interests.
Our only gospel is that of compassionate love in response to the needs of our fellowmen. Christian charity is our response to the sufferings and hunger of our fellowmen. However, in so doing, Christian charity does not leave out God because Christian charity seeks to give the human person what is of utmost importance to Him, namely, God. Very often, it is the absence of God that causes people to suffer meaninglessly and hopelessly. Christian charity is concerned not just with the physical, material and emotional needs of the human person but with the whole person. Our work must be purely humanitarian and in the line of revealing the mystery of Christ’s plan and love for them. We do it purely because we love and we want to reveal the love of God in our lives to them so that they too will come to see Christ as the light of their life.
At the end of the day, we must walk by a different path from that of the world. Our path is not coercion or masking our political and ideological programs. But we walk the path of genuine love. Only that kind of love can convince others that the love of God exists and that God is real. Only love can reveal to others the face of God. The love of God is seen of course through our genuine and sincere love for others. It is by our examples, words when needed, actions and silence when necessary, that make us credible witnesses of God’s love.
For this to happen, we must, like the Magi and our Blessed Mother, enter into worship of this God who became man. Only by contemplating the humble and selfless love of God in Christ Jesus can we be moved to love the same way. Knowledge alone cannot change us as in the case of the Jewish leaders. They knew where the Messiah was to be born, but they were indifferent. So what moves us to continue the work of Jesus in living amongst man and being His light of truth and love is when we have fallen in awe and reverence of Jesus as the Magi did. As a consequence, “they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.” We too will walk a different path if we encounter His love and mercy.