Following your star
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.' "
Then Herod secretly called for the wise menand learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, was the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
invite you to see how your journey through life may be like the journey of the three wise men. You may say that you are not wise and there has been no star for you to follow. And yet you can ask: what was it that guided me through my life? That is a deep question. You may find that you have always tried to do the right thing, and that this goal has guided you. Or that you have always tried to treat others as you would like them to treat you. Or that in every situation you did your best to do what you believed God wanted. So you may find that one of these is the star that guided you, and that you have been wise to follow it.
Looking for directionsSometimes the star disappears. Then you do not know which way to go and you may need direction. When their star disappeared, the three wise men asked the people of Jerusalem for guidance. You may recall a good person who directed you when you did not know which way to turn, a family member or a friend, or even someone like Herod, whom you later learned to avoid. The right directions for the wise men came from the Scriptures which foretold where the Saviour would be born; you may have found direction in words of the Bible or in a time of prayer.
You were on your way again; you saw your star once more and it led you on. In fact it led you to where God was. The wise men found Jesus in a humble family in Bethlehem and they were filled with joy. There may have been times when you were delighted by the generosity and kind-heartedness of God that you found in your own family and in your neighbours. And you may have found God in the beauty of nature, in moments of deep prayer on your own or when you gathered with your parish community to worship on Sundays. You have followed your star and it has led you to God.
The gifts you give
The wise men opened their treasure chests and offered gifts. Their gifts may remind you of the gifts that you offer to God and to others. They offered gold, a symbol of goodness and love; their gold may remind you of the good you have done and the love you have shown. They offered frankincense, which is associated with prayer and worship; you may recall with gratitude the place that prayer holds in your life. Myrrh is associated with the death of Jesus, and may serve to remind you of the sufferings you have endured and have offered to the Lord for the benefit of others. You too have opened your treasure chest and offered your gifts.
An Epiphany Prayer
may your light shine our way,
as once it guided the steps of the magi:
that we too may be led into your presence
and worship you,
the Child of Mary,
the Word of the Father,
the King of nations,
the Saviour of all;
to whom be glory for ever.
The Icons are from the Dominican Monastery, Siena, Drogheda