King of the Jews

epiphany
20 C + M + B 14

“We have come to do homage to the newborn King of the Jews.”

The king of the Jews. Let’s pause to consider the significance of the phrase.

The Jews came out of Egypt, with Moses leading the column. Eventually, they reached the Holy Land. Then generations passed. The Jews confronted military challenges. The Lord raised up the generals that the people deserved, based on their faithfulness. Stay pious, and you get good generals to lead the army. Follow pagan gods, and I abandon you to the hands of your enemies.

These generations passed, and the Jews had conflicts among themselves. So the Lord raised up judges to help settle disputes, based on Moses’ law. Again, when the people lived in the fear of God, they got good judges. When they followed the pagan religions, their judges took bribes.

winston-churchillOne thing the Jews never had, from Abraham for fourteen succeeding generations—they never had a king. One of the more heartbreaking passages in Scripture can be found in I Samuel 8, when the Israelites begged the prophet to anoint a king for them to lead their armies. They wanted to be like the other nations, like the other kids. The other kids get cellphones, and the other nations have kings, so we want one.

Samuel prayed, and the Lord said to him, “Old, faithful servant of mine, they are not rejecting you. They are rejecting Me.”

To be a people that has only the invisible God for a king: certainly that would be a holy people, and a realistic people. After all, we are a lumpy race, prone to foibles, failings, and foolishness. Who among us has what it takes to stand as a paragon, an exemplar of humanity, a royal?

But God gave Israel a king—meanwhile predicting that the nation would live to regret the request. And they did. Saul disobeyed the Lord. David came closest to the ideal: beautiful, brave, cunning, exuberant, and musical. But he fell from grace, and lust made a schemer and a murderer out of him. His son Solomon achieved great wisdom, but then he, too, fell. The glory of the royal house of Judah passed away from the earth—apparently forever.

Herod
Herod
When the magi arrived, asking the supposed King of the Jews where the King of the Jews was, a thick irony hung in the air. Herod could have said, “Um. The king of the Jews? I know you fellas ain’t from around here. But did you notice the crown? The throne? Did you notice the framed papyrus from the Roman Senate, addressed to Herod, King of the Jews? I’m not kickin’ butt and taking prisoners around here just for the fun of it.”

But they didn’t have that conversation. Then the travelers from the east did see the King of the Jews. They followed the star to the manger. And then the strange concession that God had made so long ago, the strange concession He made in choosing a king from among the people—it finally made sense.

On the one hand, Yes, it is true: The only way for a people to grow holy is to serve God Himself as the king. God is the only real king. Yes.

But, on the other hand, also true: Mankind needs a human king. We need a king from among our race. Jesus is the king Who fulfills both of these. He is the divine human King.

Now, as we know, the divine and human King of the Jews founded no political organization or party. He founded a Church, which is every bit as lumpy and prone to foolishness as any other human organization, and yet somehow manages to let the Holy Spirit guide Her through every bump and turn of history. The society founded by Christ has extended Herself to every society. The King reigns over a universal Church.

Like the magi, we come to do our homage to the King of the Jews. We have citizenship in His kingdom and do our duty as knights and ladies of His realm.

Here, in this part of the world, we live in a vast and venerable republic, constituted as a nation to be a democracy. IMHO, we should remind ourselves frequently of the immortal words of Winston Churchill. With one sentence, he gave us the right perspective on the work of Thomas Jefferson and Co. Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other ones.”

That Jesus, born of Mary in Bethlehem—that He is the divine King: this will be true throughout 2014, and 2015, and every other year, until there are no more years, and His kingdom comes, and God is all in all forever.

The things we hear about on the news: They may or may not be true today, may or may not be true tomorrow, almost certainly won’t be true this time next year.

The great number puts everything in perspective. 2014. Two thousand fourteen. 2,014 years since Obamacare was passed? No. 2,014 years since the Redskins had a playoff win? No. 2,014 years since Columbus discovered America? Or since Bill Gates founded Microsoft? Or since Mahatma Gandhi liberated the people of India from colonial rule? No.

2,014 years since the most important thing that ever happened. 2,014 years since the Virgin gave birth to the King of the Jews, to our divine King, our brother Jesus, Who reigns on high.

ἐπορεύθησαν Pro-Lifers

Huge Hoyas game today. In Morgantown WV. Against the Brokeback Mountaineers. If you need emergency pastoral care in Franklin or Henry counties, please make sure it’s not between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. Thanks. (Kidding.)

After their audience with Herod, the magi set out for Bethlehem.

Literally, the magi eporeuthesan. Whenever this Greek verb appears in the New Testament, it indicates a journey of some distance, a removal from one’s usual location. The word suggests a pilgrimage.

The 2,012th year of grace lies open before us, like a spiritual New World to discover. Where will we go? Where will the star of Christ lead us?

The Lord expects us to share the attitude the magi had:

Lead on, heavenly light. We will follow. Shine wherever you will. We won’t complain about the rigors of the trip, about sore feet or weary bones. We will not lament the comfortable homes we left behind to follow after you. No. To reach You, O Christ of God—to reach You will reward every effort we make. All the hardship will seem like nothing.

Of course, the magi knew what they were doing when they left their homes to follow Christ’s star. After all their long journey, what did they find? They found a beauty beyond what they could have imagined. God, the Lord of the heavens, had become one of us. And He did not sit on a terrible throne, lording it over His subjects with wrath and fire. No. He lay in a manger, a cooing child, smiling up at them.

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Emotional Epiphany

magi

Owing to various circumstances, I found myself at Holy Mass this morning (the Solemnity of the Epiphany) at the Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. I was very glad to be with the saint, to whom I have often prayed for the members of my family.

The homilist made an interesting observation. The three Magi came from different lands. It was not possible for them to call each other on the phone before they departed to find the Christ.

At one point on their journey to Israel, the three Kings met. They discovered that, by the plan of Providence, they each had DIFFERENT gifts for Christ.

What if when they met up, and they saw each others’ gifts, the one had to say to the other, “Oh, gosh. You got Him myrrh, too? Darn it!”

Didn’t happen. God provided. No returns or exchanges on the first Christmas.

…I wept copiously at Mass this morning. I was overcome by the suffering of people I love. Even more so, I was overwhelmed by the love of our mysterious Creator.

God became man to reveal His love. He took to Himself the sufferings of all humanity.

He has done this to redeem it–all the suffering in every painful place in every painful corner of this sin-laden world.

When we suffer, we do not suffer like animals, without meaning. We suffer for Redemption.

God has made Himself known to us, dear brothers and sisters!

He loves us with everything He has. He has made us to be happy with Him in heaven forever–all of us, every man, woman, and child on earth.

…Thank you all very much for praying for me and for my family.