As a child, I remember vividly my dad pointing out the North Star (also known as the Pole Star) to my siblings and me and told us about how the stars guided ships in times when there were no compasses (ironically with GPS we still can get lost these days and food get delivered to the wrong house). That conversation somewhat got etched in my memory and till today, whenever I look at the sky in the night, I look for the aligned “three lighted dots”. Now that I live in a city that has so many lights, it is more difficult today to spot them. However, some years ago I had the opportunity of taking a trip out into a desert and in the night, where it is pitch dark, it is amazing to see the numerous stars that are in the sky. Only then I could understand the fascination of many people with the world of astronomy.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the wise men from the East bearing gifts. Quite often I have chosen to focus on the gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh that they brought for the newborn King and the symbolism that accompanies those gifts. The gifts in themselves had no meaning but those gifts pointed towards the identity of Jesus and His future ministry. Mary and Joseph most likely did not understand and must have wondered about those precious gifts they received.However, this year, I would like to focus on the star that led the magi to the King of kings. During the time of Jesus, the people in the Near East commonly thought that each individual had his or her own star and that is why in the Book of Numbers, we hear Balaam prophesying: “a star is emerging from Jacob, a sceptre is rising from Israel (Numbers 24:17), a sign that someone great will be coming.
From the moment of His birth, Jesus is presented to the world as the unique guiding star. Having seen an “unusual star, the wise men set off in search of something that they have not seen before and what it meant. Despite the challenges of having to travel a distance and almost being distracted by Herod, they were single-minded in discovering the meaning of this star. When they discover the infant Jesus, they now know that this child with an unusual star is destined to do great things, and indeed Jesus will go on do great things!
As we celebrate this great manifestation of the Saviour of the world, we are being reminded that Jesus is the light that must illumine our personal existence and only He can guide us to the fullness of life that God offers. In the words of Pope Benedict, “The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world.”Today we live in a world where our vision of that ‘great star’ can be clouded by opposing ideologies that sow seeds of doubt in many people in the form of fake news and half-truths. There are also those who say that God does not exist. These are the “herods” of our time, distracting us from discovering the Star and perhaps even deceiving us along the way. In a world where there is not only an explosion of information and accessibility, we can easily succumb and get lost in our journey of faith if we lose sight of the Star or allow ourselves to be distracted.
As much as we marvel at the gifts brought to the child Jesus in the manger, there is only one gift that matters at Epiphany – God’s gift of Jesus to each one of us. Like the wise men from the East who set out not knowing what they are going to find, we too need to trust and follow that light – the light that neither dims nor fades. What could we do better in this world than to seek after Christ – the perfect light?
O Star of Wonder, star of night, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to Thy perfect light.
Solemnity of the Epiphany (3 Jan 2021)