In the account from Matthew’s Gospel that we hear today for the Epiphany, we hear the following: “behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem.” (Mt 2:1) Although there has been speculation about where these magi are from, the Scriptures really do not say more than this. Regardless, we know that their coming to Jerusalem and then Bethlehem involved a journey of some sort. That journey, as we hear in the passage, was guided by a star which eventually led them to their destination, seeing the “newborn King of the Jews.” Without that star to guide them, the magi would likely have been lost and would never have had this life-changing encounter with Jesus.
In the example of the magi, we are invited to see an analogy of our lives as Christians. On the day of our Baptism, the light of Christ is placed into our hearts and we are called to follow that light throughout the journey of our lives, for that light will lead us to where Jesus dwells most completely, in His home in Heaven. Without the light of Christ to guide us, we can get lost and we risk never having the opportunity to encounter Jesus in His Kingdom.
Knowing the difficulty that we would face on our journey, the Lord provides us, though the Scriptures and through His Church, a map and a vehicle to guide us toward our final home. One of the images for the Church is that of a ship, sailing across the choppy waters of this world. As long as we stay on the ship, we can be assured of our reaching our destination in safety. The Lord will always provide us the sufficient grace that we need to stay on the ship, but the Lord will never take away our freedom. This means that if we choose to, we can jump ship and try to go it alone without the protection of the Church, but to do so will have tragic consequences for us.
As we make this journey toward Heaven, the Lord has also provided a map for us to keep us on the right path, to keep us safely on the ship of the Church leading us to our home. That map is marked out by the Ten Commandments. By following these directions, we can have great confidence in knowing that we will not get lost on our journey. Over the next two months, our Family of Faith formation focus will be the Ten Commandments. Sadly, when many hear about the Ten Commandments, they only hear a set of rules that restrict freedom. In truth, these commandments are the path to freedom, the freedom of living fully as the children of God.
As we begin this new calendar year, we continue the journey that we began on the day of our Baptism. Perhaps there have been times when we have chosen to follow a different map than the one provided by the Ten Commandments. Maybe we have tried another vehicle for our journey other than the Church. I invite you to set out on the next leg of your journey with trust in the Lord – His teachings and His Church. He has given both to us as a sign of His love for us and out of His desire for us to not get lost on our way to Heaven. Will you trust Him more fully this year?