By Another Road
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, and we hear the story of the Magi who traveled great distance in pursuit of a brilliant star they believed would lead them to the Light of the World. If these Magi travelled from Persia as believed, to Bethlehem, their journey would have taken them approximately 1,600 – 2,000 km across what I can only imagine would have been inhospitable terrain. To provide context, this would be roughly the same as traveling from Moncton to Montreal and back, but without the Big Stops. Oh, and they were on camels. I have not ridden on a camel, but am told it is more comfortable than it looks. I am skeptical of this, and I wonder what kind of star the Magi saw in the sky that would lead them to embark on such an epic journey. What did they expect to find? Did they ever doubt their decision to make this journey? The Magi recognized this Eastern star as something extraordinary, followed its brilliant light to Bethlehem where they encountered the manifestation of God in the human form of Jesus, then returned home by another road. For the Magi, following this light must have been a profound expression of faith, but one that was rewarded by an encounter with God. In addition to the physical discomfort of such a journey, the Magi encountered darkness on their path, in the form of King Herod, destroyed by his own fear of new life.
How does journey taken by a group of Persians two thousand years ago have meaning for us in 2015? In his 2014 homily for the Feast of the Epiphany, Pope Francis suggested that our own life journeys are symbolized by the Magi: “…our life is a journey, illuminated by the lights which brighten our way, to find the fullness of truth and love which we Christians recognize in Jesus, the Light of the World.”
As people of Christian faith, we live out our lives in pursuit of Christ’s light so that we may encounter God, making it possible for us to reflect that light to others. As the Magi encountered darkness on their path to Christ, we also encounter darkness that threatens to conceal goodness. In the past year, I have felt at times bombarded with tragic stories in the news media…around the world in Australia, Syria, and Pakistan, but also here in Canada, in New Brunswick, even in the Moncton area. Amid all of this, the Eastern Star shines for us always, even if at times we look another way, or lose sight of it, or wander off the path.
I have encountered Jesus Christ in different ways, but the way which resonates most strongly with me is the way I have encountered him through other people. Some people model the way Jesus taught, others model his hospitality or compassion, or his association with the marginalized, and each time I recognize these encounters for what they are, I walk away changed, like the magi who encountered Jesus Christ and then left for their own country, by another road.