THE LIGHT TO THE GENTILES
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 60:1-6; Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13; EPH 3:2-3.5-6; MT 2:1-12 ]
What is the purpose of a star? A star is a tiny light that gives direction to sailors in those days. That is why Mary is called the Star of the Sea. But the star is far away. It is a tiny light. The star in today’s gospel is Jesus the Light of the World, and the light to the Gentiles. He is a light in the darkness. Just imagine a star shining so brightly when there is darkness. How much more Jesus shines as the light of the world in darkness and sin. This is what the prophet Simeon prophesied. “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Lk 2:30-32) Indeed, Jesus is called to be the hope for those in darkness and in sorrow. He is the fulfillment of Israel and the Gentiles. “Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you, though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples.” He came for the forlorn and the downhearted. He came not just for Israel but for all nations.
Jesus is the star by being the fulfillment of everyone’s dreams. Sometimes we speak of reaching out for the stars, meaning to realize the impossible dream. He was the dream of Israel come true, the dream of being a united nation worshipping God, living in peace and prosperity. “At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart throbbing and full; since the riches of the sea will flow to you, the wealth of the nations come to you; camels in throngs will cover you, and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; everyone in Sheba will come, bringing gold and incense and singing the praise of the Lord.”
On this feast of Epiphany, we too are called to be His stars. We are called to be a light in the darkness. We too are called to be a sign of hope for the forlorn. We are to be His agents for justice and mercy. Through our works of mercy and compassion, we are called to reach out to those who are living in the shadow of death and in darkness. That was what Christ did when He was on earth. He came for the poor, the sick, the wounded, the marginalized and the outcasts. Through His works of mercy, healing and compassion, He brought many to God. But most of all, you are called to be witnesses of the family of God.
In the final analysis, we are to reveal the mystery of God’s plan in Christ as St Paul did. The whole purpose of Christ’s works, that is, the miracles were not just to help the sick or deliver those who were possessed but to point them to the mercy and love of the Father so that they would know the goal of life, their origin and destiny. We are called to help people discover their real identity as children of God in Christ, their calling in life, purpose and destiny. In other words, we are called to be the family of families. This is our dream, that all nations will be one, where every barrier would be removed and there will be peace and unity. But all this begins with establishing beautiful, stable, loving and united families. If the basic unity of the family is untenable, how can we ever dream of the entire nation as one big family of God, much less the entire world?
We do this by living authentic lives, strengthening marriages, building strong families. We need to be a model of faith and family life. We must be examples of loving marriages and families so that we can form our young people to contribute to the community and to society through our talents and selfless services. We go beyond ourselves to reach out to the poor. In our humanitarian works, we must be careful that we do not simply stop at saving the lives of people or making them feel loved and cared for but we want to give them Jesus.
Most of all, against threats to the family, we must also proclaim the truth about love, that marriage is between a man and a woman, about the indissolubility of marriage, speaking against surrogacy of motherhood, and promoting the culture of life by defending the weak and the vulnerable, speaking out against abortion, IVF, euthanasia and the destruction of human embryos by science. We must proclaim the beauty of marriage and the importance of family life. This is where we need to teach our young people to prepare for marriage. That is why we are asking for a year’s notice before marriage, so that the Church can prepare them for a life-long journey. At the same time, there are programs in our Church to help young couples to continue the ongoing formation after marriage, such as Couples for Christ, Couple Empowerment Program, Couple Mentor journey and Marriage Encounter to help them to build strong relationships as couples and with their families and children.
All these programs and organizations of the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family are not meant to compete with each other but to supplement each other in the journey of life. We need to work together in unity for the greater good of our families and our nation. Just as it took many people to help the wise men to find Jesus, we too must make use of all the resources we have to build our families. Different stages of marriage, whether it is before, after or when we need to repair the marriage (Retrouvaille), the Church has all these different programs to assist couples in strengthening, healing and repairing their marriages.
Hence, we must be mindful that there are Herods around to deceive us. He said, “Go and find out all about the child and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.” We must be prudent and not be deceived by the world and be tempted by the world to substitute the truth for falsehood. We must strive against the dictatorship of relativism and secularism. We must expose fake news, especially through the use of mass media and digital media. We must use technology wisely for the good of our people and not for their destruction. We must dissociate ourselves with those who use power and money and pleasure to seduce people into living a life of debauchery that is not holistic, intellectually, affectively, socially and spiritually as the Magi did with Herod who used deceptive means to achieve his selfish interests. We must not be deceived by the short-sighted values of the world where they promote cheap and transient love that cannot last, even in marriage and relationships.
Rather, like the Magi, we must be willing to invest our time in searching the scriptures and studying how to build strong and loving marriages and families. We read that the Magi took the risk of searching for Christ. They were humble enough to inquire from anyone who knew about His birth. They continued to search and study even at times when the star disappeared. They never gave up hope. So too, in our marriage life, there will be times when the marriage gets difficult and we feel like giving up on our relationship. This is where we must turn to the Lord and seek His guidance. We must remain calm in our struggles and eventually, the star will reappear again as it did for the Magi. We must pray and find all means, through study, formation and counselling to strengthen our family, otherwise we will be deceived by the Herods of the world.
At the end of the day, we must walk by a different path from that of the world, like the Magi. “They were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.” We too will walk a different path if we encounter His love and mercy. Our path is not to take the route of cheap and selfish love motivated by lust and pleasure. But we walk the path of genuine love. Only that kind of love can convince others that the love of God exists and that God is real. Only love can reveal to others the face of God. The love of God is seen of course through our genuine and sincere love for others. It is by our examples, words when needed, actions and silence when necessary that make us credible witnesses of God’s love. We do not curse the darkness but be a light to the world as to how life can be lived meaningfully, joyfully and in freedom in love and truth.
When we do that, we will also be richly rewarded. We will experience the same joy of the Magi. “And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage.” We too will bow in worship when we celebrate our wedding anniversaries over the years, knowing the hand of God and His grace in our married life.
We too will bow in worship of this God who became man. Like the Magi and our Blessed Mother, only by contemplating the humble and selfless love of God in Christ Jesus, can we be moved to love the same way. Knowledge alone cannot change us as in the case of the Jewish leaders. They knew where the Messiah was to be born but they were indifferent. So what moves us to continue the work of Jesus in living amongst man and being His light of truth and love is when in awe and reverence we fall in love with Jesus as the Magi did.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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