Homily by Father Mike Kuse
Reading I Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Reading II Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6
Gospel Matthew 2:1-12
Each of us has a star. It is not the star of a storybook, but it is the star of faith and the only way you can see the star is when you seek to bring joy and love into your life.
During this Christmas season and Advent season, we are overwhelmed with symbols — of angels and shepherds and wise men, of people filled with fear and others seeking hope. Now two thousand years later we have to ask ourselves, “Am I following the star? Do I see the star? Or are distractions taking part in my life so that sometimes I see it, then other times I don’t see it.”
Sometimes the stars are overwhelmed by the pollution that you and I live with. I remember one time when I was on vacation in Colorado and being up in the mountains and one night going out for a walk. The sky was so clear and the stars were so bright it seemed like all you had to do was jump in the air and grab one. When I came back down out of the mountains, the stars appeared to be so far away because there is so much pollution between the stars and us.
There is the star that appears in the heavens. There is the star that we are searching for in our hearts — and that is the star that keeps tugging us and saying, “Stop, listen. This is what you are to do. This is not make believe, and you have to be able to find the silence within yourself.”
For some, Christmas is over. The tree is gone and the ornaments are all packed away. For others, the tree and ornaments are still up. But it doesn’t make any difference. I would encourage all of us to take five minutes today and be silent, and that five minutes can be at home, go out for a walk, or go out in the Mall and walk and just ignore everybody. But just take five minutes of silence and I guarantee you will be amazed.
God only speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. He knows if we are all worked up about something and says, “Well, if they aren’t listening to me, they are just going to have to wait. But I’m here. They are going to have to get through all of that — and then they will listen and find out I have the message and, I will show them where their star is and where they need to go.”
We all live in darkness, and we all live in light. When we live in darkness we know it, when we live in light we know it. The darkness is different for all of us. Sometimes it’s with relationships, sometimes it’s with jobs. Sometimes it’s with our faith. Sometimes it’s with our health.
Events in life can take us into that darkness and all of a sudden we have to make that choice — do I follow the star or, do I create my own star?
Here is just one example. Many women and men are in prisons throughout the United States and throughout our world and have to spend time there. The good thing about a prison is that it allows one to have a space for silence. And in that silence a person can have his fears taken away and realize what it is that is destroying him. Then he has to make a decision.
There was a young man I worked with at the prison in Jacksonville. He was from Chicago. He had been in the prison for a few years and when I saw him he was going to get out in a matter of weeks. He told me, “I am not sure if I want to get out.”
I asked, “Why wouldn’t you want to get out?”
He said, “Father, if I go back to Chicago, my entire family is in the drug business. So if I go home — my parents, my sisters, my brothers, my cousins — they are all in the business and I know I’ll be right back into drugs. So I could go home, or I could take off and find another city I have never lived in. I will be alone, my family will resent me, and I will have to start all over. It’s scary!”
I said, “You know, at this moment, your family is following the wrong star. But if you really trust in God, and you let God take you somewhere, and you open your life to that experience of love, you will have peace and happiness the rest of your life.”
I said, “For me, it seems like an easy choice, but I understand where you are. But you have to remember, normally we would never reject our family. But if our family is not in tune with their star, sometimes we do have to make very serious decisions.”
It’s in silence that we can put things together. And that silence can be anywhere. It can be here in church, it can be at home, it can be wherever you want. But just know, there is a star leading each one of us. And when we follow that star, the whole experience of the epiphany happens. It is not make-believe when I look at this manager — what I see and find is peace and joy in my heart.
The wise men knew they were in search of something special and it wasn’t reserved just for the Jewish people, it was there and also reserved for the Gentiles. The Spirit of God goes beyond all borders.
That is something we sometimes forget. And like the wise men, if we were there standing before the manager, would we prostrate ourselves?
The priest does that twice. Once in ordination, and once on Good Friday. And the Good Friday is every year of our life. If you are here on Good Friday, we come down the aisle and stretch out here on the floor. It’s getting to the point I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get up some day. But anyway, we get down there on the floor and prostrate ourselves. And it is in that moment of silence that everything just disappears.
That’s what the wise men did. They did not come in and say, “I hear you have a new kid! A boy, girl, what’s the name?” They came to the manger with gifts and the wonder of looking at this child and opening their lives.
We need to see that wonder with every child. We see it with Elijah who is to be baptized this morning, and with his sister and brothers. We see it all the time — when something is beautiful — you want to hold on to it.
And so this day of Epiphany: What do you and I want to hold on to? Do we have the courage to follow the star and know that God will give us the signal, “Don’t go back to Herod, move ahead, go forward, and never fear.”
Next Sunday we are going to take a giant leap. We are going from the crib to the Jordon River. Jesus will set the scene. But today: find the silence, follow your star, and let God be God for you.
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.