Today, for once, it is not Jews or Christians who teach us a few things: it is pagans! Three pagans: Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar. And the first thing they teach us is a very important reality: that God doesn’t make mistakes. For their arrival was predicted by the Holy Spirit through the prophet Isaiah centuries before. As we heard in the First Reading 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. How did Isaiah know that? So Lesson 1: God knows far more than you and me what is going on, and unlike us he won’t stuff it up. So make God, and whatever he teaches the centre of your life and you’ll be okay.
A second thing that the Magi teach us today is that non-Christians are hungry for what we have. This is the whole point of the first readings. The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness. Lift up your eyes and look round: all are assembling and coming towards you, your sons from far away and your daughters being tenderly carried. Why do all nations come for the baby Jesus? Because he is the answer to the human ache of their heart. There is no person outside God: their very being is a gift from him, their humanity is in his image, and only he loves them perfectly and forever. Christians have a freedom no one else has – even from fear and death – as, for any Christian, God is by definition holding them forever in his hand. As the Collect tells us: Behold, the Lord, the Mighty One, has come; and kingship is in his grasp, and power and dominion.
This is why, thirdly, that we should in no way be ashamed or embarrassed about being Catholic. The teachings of Jesus Christ, and the freedom and human maturity of most of the Church’s members, is a gift for secular society:- for the simple reason that it is through the Church that the Creator himself is given to all. As he says today: 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.
This invitation of the Lord for us to arise and shine is also then him asking us to share what we have received with our society. This preaching of the Gospel is what we call evangelisation. Evangelisation is the basic mission of the Church: she doesn’t exist for anything else. And so it is the basic responsibility of every Catholic: because of their fraternal love for others. Of course God asks us to do this: is what we have received from him good – or is it rubbish? Do we love him – or are we ashamed of the One who has saved us, and offers us infinitely more than any secular person possibly can? It doesn’t mean we all have to become street preachers – although some would be good. But it does mean that we need to be attentive to sharing our faith, and God’s love, with others. There are three simple ways we can do this:
- Pray at least 10 minutes daily: how can we share God if we don’t know him?
- Make sure you know what Christ teaches: a worrying element of numerous submissions for the Plenary Council is how little many know about basics like the Creed, the Sacraments, the Commandments and Prayer.
- Keep awake to appropriate times to share your faith and to pray with others in need – and every now and again invite someone to mass, adoration, etc.