(St Bernardine’s, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm, Sunday 7.30am & 9am)
6 January 2013
(Readings: Is 60:1-6; Ps 71; Eph 3:2-3, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12)
As you might have guessed, I’m Fr Adrian – it’s very nice to be here with you in Saint Bernardine’s Parish. Fr Francis has written kind things about me in the newsletter, so I’m not too sure what I can add! I’ve seen a bit of the Archdiocese since my ordination, with postings in Booval, Burleigh Heads, St Stephen’s Cathedral, Noosa, Sunnybank & Acacia Ridge, and just prior to going to Canada at Coomera. You’ll notice that the Archbishop has appointed me here as “priest in residence”. That recognises that my main work, Monday to Friday is in the marriage tribunal, putting my canon law studies to use. So while I’ll be living here full-time, my main work with you will be on the weekends. But, as I say, I’m very pleased to be here with you over the next few years, and I thank Fr Francis, Innocent, Nola and you for the welcome I’ve received already.
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Here in Australia, and in other parts of the world, census data shows that the number of people declaring themselves to have “no religion” is increasing as the years go by (see http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/2071.0Main%20Features902012%E2%80%932013). At the same time we often hear people describe themselves as “spiritual, not religious.” Regardless of what people say about themselves and their religious affiliation, people still search for meaning in their lives. People try to come up with answers for the questions: why are we here? why do we exist? what’s the purpose of life? Most people have some sort of answer to those questions which shapes the way they live their lives. In reality, whatever people call it they are seeking truth, the ultimate truth of our existence.
In today’s liturgy we meet again the Magi of the Christmas story. “The arrival in Bethlehem of the Magi from the East to adore the newborn Messiah is a sign of the manifestation of the universal King to the peoples and to all who seek the truth.” (Benedict XVI, Homily, 6 January 2008). As we look at the Magi it’s interesting to see all the different things that helped them on their journey of searching. Firstly, they have their own expertise and wisdom, their knowledge of the stars, and this “sets them off on the journey and points them in the right direction” (Radcliffe, see reference below). But that only gets them so far. When they get to Jerusalem they need to ask King Herod what he knows. King Herod, in turn, needed the help of the chief priests and scribes “who had studied the scriptures and so knew where the Messiah was to be born” (Radcliffe).
None of these things was sufficient on their own. The Magi were prompted to set off on their journey by what they understood when they saw the star in the sky. But they needed the help of others to get to their destination. Even Herod – the wicked tyrant who slaughtered the holy innocents in his jealousy – even he has a part to play in helping the Magi in their search.
The Magi are popular figures and symbols of the Christmas story because their journey to what they were searching for speaks to our own life’s journey, our own search for meaning and truth. Just like the Magi, we have something ourselves. We’ve heard God speak to us in the Scriptures – we can learn about Jesus and his promises to us from the Word of God. But it’s not enough for us to simply do that on our own. We only get so far if we say that our faith is between me and God, end of story. We could easily misunderstand the message, and deceive ourselves, if we think that.
That’s why we come to God, and listen to his Word (Jesus), as members of the Church – a Church that isn’t just the community of today, but the community that stretches back to Jesus himself, that has kept his memory alive. We are able to learn from those who have been on this journey before us, and who have found the Lord and lived their lives filled with his power. We are able to learn from those who have come to know that Jesus is the answer to every question: he is – as he said – the way, the truth and the life.
Within the Church we have the gift of those chosen by God to teach us: the Church’s magisterium. Through wise and holy leaders we are led closer to God. This gift in the Church is expressed by Saint Paul in the opening line of our second reading where he describes how God entrusted him with a gift meant for the people. So today, God uses our pastors and leaders to guide us to himself.
Beyond all these important things, even non-religious things and people can be a help to us in the search for truth and meaning – just as Herod played a part in leading the Magi to what they were looking for. People and events in our lives – even those that might seem far removed from religion and even spirituality – can be helps to us in our own search for truth. That’s why we need open eyes and hearts – and a discerning spirit – to see how and where God is leading us in our lives.
As we continue our own pilgrimage like the Magi, let’s be grateful for the many ways God leads us to the truth. And just as the star shone to guide the Magi on their way, let’s rejoice that “Jesus is the sun that appeared on humanity’s horizon – to illumine the personal existence of every one of us – and to guide us all together toward the destination of our pilgrimage, toward the land of freedom and peace – in which we shall live for ever in full communion with God and with each other” (Benedict XVI, Angelus address, Friday 6 January 2012).
Fr Timothy Radcliffe’s homily was my launching pad for this homily: http://torch.op.org/preaching_sermon_item.php?sermon=5721