Dear Friends in Christ:
In the hymnal that I use at Mass, I keep a few little “sticky” bookmarks to help me quickly find the readings and the hymns. I also have a post-it from the Solemnity of Epiphany from a few years ago in the inside cover of the book. It was in essence my homily notes for that Sunday – or more accurately, a homily note. It simply says “Be a star!”
What did I mean? Well, we are familiar with the star in the story of Epiphany (Mt 2). We recall how the wise men followed a star and it led them to discover Jesus, whom they were seeking but did not know. Yet when they found Jesus after faithfully following the star, they were overjoyed and their longing was fulfilled. As the star led the wise men to Jesus, this year, 2018, each of us should make it our job and our mission in life each day to “Be a star” and lead others to Jesus. When we consider that star of two thousand years ago, we notice that the star did not quit, nor did it give excuses as to why it could not perform its duty. The star did what God wanted the star to do. It lead the Magi to Jesus. It became a point of reference for those who were searching for something more in their lives. It became a “guiding star”. But also notice how the star led and guided them to Jesus. The star of Epiphany did what stars do. It shined and it shined brightly. Stars are created just for that purpose. They do what God wants them to do! They do what God created them to do. No excuses. No self-doubt. No protesting or angst that they should be an i-phone or a bird or a mountain or a mermaid or something else. The star, in doing and being what God created it to do and what God wants it to do, fulfilled an ever higher purpose. Likewise, you and I, like all created things, have a true purpose in life. Each of us has a nature. When we respect our created nature, when we act and behave according to our nature, we are in fact, cooperating with the will of God for us. The first step in leading others to Christ is for us to be the people God wants us to be. For us to become saints, we have to first be good men and women, decent, honorable, virtuous human beings. We have to let the goodness of our God-given humanity shine. We have to act according to our human nature. As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, grace does not destroy or replace nature, it perfects nature. The first step in bringing others to Christ, the first step to becoming holy (saints) is acting according to our nature!
Now of course our human nature has been stained by original sin. But that does not mean that our nature is totally corrupt or that we can ignore or abandon our nature. Rather, because we are created good by God and we have been redeemed by Jesus, who took our nature upon himself (consubstantial with the Father … and became man), we must respect our human nature and build upon it. How? By divine grace. The supernatural gift of God’s grace in the sacraments help us perfect our human nature. The gift of God’s grace elevates our nature and helps us to become the people that God wills and desires us to be. The gift of supernatural grace is not given to stars, but to people. Stars cannot be baptized and be perfected by grace. But people can. With the aid of the sacraments, we can act in accordance with, and perfect, our human nature. Conversely, we can frustrate the effectiveness of God’s grace by abusing our nature. In other words, it does us little good to receive the sacraments and then deliberately choose to sin (acting against the natural law and divine law), frustrating and arresting ourselves from being virtuous and acting in accord to our true nature and supernatural destiny!
For us to be a “metaphorical” star this year and lead others to Christ, like the star of Epiphany that led the Magi, we first must strive to be the very best version of ourselves. We need to be the people that God created us and wants us to be! God gives us the grace in the sacraments to help perfect our nature, to be holy; to become saints. This sanctifying grace in the sacraments is available to us, but we have to be open to these graces (Mass every Sunday, prayer every day, Confession regularly and frequently).
God has created us out love and has called us to be part of his plan. Be the best version of yourself and live in his grace so as to lead others to Christ! Be a star in 2018!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately