January 8, 2023
Today's Author: Dr. Nathan Sturtzel
“Behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
One of my favorite scenes from The Chosen is the re-telling of the miraculous catch of fish described in the fifth chapter of the gospel of Luke (this is my shameless plug to check out this popular show if you haven’t seen it yet!). Jesus calls his first disciples to follow him by the way of an amazing sign. After witnessing this miracle, Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, along with James and John, leave their profession as fishermen to follow Jesus and become new fishermen of people.
This sign was a revelation to Simon Peter, but it doesn’t appear that Jesus performed this miracle simply to “rescue” him and his comrades. The sign or wonder was also an invitation. It was a means to something much greater and more special: to take a leap of faith, to embark on a different kind of journey, and to become His disciple.
The Feast of the Epiphany, which we celebrate today, has a profound, complex meaning in the Catholic Church. Yes, the wisemen or “magi” see a sign, the Bethlehem star, and journey far from the east to pay homage to the “newborn king of the Jews.” But this feast day goes far beyond the visitation of the Magi. It commends divine manifestation that completes the Christmas cycle, by which we first adored the human child born in a manger to fully realizing that the human child is the King and Ruler of the universe. This feast of Christ’s divinity completes the feast of His humanity. God became man.
The magi, who were not Jewish, were known to be astronomers and held in high regard. In a similar fashion to the fishermen, these men were given a sign of wonder by God in a concept that they were familiar with - the stars. They observed an amazing and unfamiliar star, embarked on a long journey, and then paid homage to a new kind of King.
Another ideal from today’s special feast is that Jesus is not for a select few, but for every human being. Our first reading from Isaiah says the light of Jerusalem has come and “the glory of the Lord shines upon them”; then St. Paul writes in our second reading that “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Each person, regardless of sins or creed, has been created in God’s image. He lives in each of us, and we were saved and sanctified by His Son, Jesus Christ.
We are called to respond. As Christians, we are a part of this story, of this feast day. This is a lot to take in and process! Each one of us is on a path to be a disciple of Jesus. We are members of the real and living Body of Christ; we are His hands and feet and His manifestation. We have the Light and we are called to share it with others.
God’s love and His signs are revealed to us in many ways. While we can look to the heavens and be inspired by the mystery and wonder of the cosmic order and God’s beauty, it is unlikely there will be a sign via a “Bethlehem star” that shows us the way as it did for the magi. Instead, we know that God calls us in our language, through our own orientation in our daily lives. For Simon Peter, Jesus used fish. What might He use for you?
As the new year carries on and the visuals of the Nativity fade, the challenge will be to continue paying homage to God, and to seek for signs that will call us for something more. To do so, we must take that leap of faith and be a disciple of Jesus. Perhaps, in our own way, we may just become a sign or a star for another person, lighting a new path that pays homage to Him.