"Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in you". This Sunday's feast of the Epiphany reminds us to reflect on these memorable words of Saint Augustine. The Three Kings of this Sunday's gospel narrative, their lives incomplete, unsatisfied despite their wealth, fame and power, came in search of the only one who can satisfy the deepest aspirations of the human heart. They longed to find the very meaning of their existence.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - "Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in you". This Sunday's feast of the Epiphany reminds us to reflect on these memorable words of Saint Augustine.
All human beings will find meaning in life by being open to God. The Three Kings, whose coming we celebrate today, were not Jewish; they came from the Orient. Some scholars believe that they began their travels together from Persia, while others believe that they came from three different regions of the Orient, one of them perhaps being China.
Obviously, the Magi were not part of the chosen people. They were not Jews. Instead they formed part of the vast populace extending throughout the known world at that time, designated by the Jews as pagans, or gentiles.
The Three Kings of this Sunday's gospel narrative, their lives incomplete, unsatisfied despite their wealth, fame and power, came in search of the only one who can satisfy the deepest aspirations of the human heart. They longed to find the very meaning of their existence.
After a long and difficult search, they discovered the place where he lay. They encountered the one who had come to redeem mankind and fulfill our intense longings. Knowing him for who he is, the Messiah, the Magi have brought him the most appropriate gifts: gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, and myrrh for a victim. They recognize that he is Jesus the Christ, the only one through whom salvation can be found.
Because the Three Kings were open, they were given the gift of faith. Through this gift they searched, they found, and they believed. Actually, the word epiphany is from the Greek which means manifestation. Jesus the Messiah reveals his divinity to the Three Kings.
Certainly today, three of the most blinding obstacles we encounter in the search for meaning and truth are secularism, relativism and pride.
Secularism only concerns itself with the here and now. It has no use for matters regarding the existence of God, the immortality of soul, or the eternal destiny of man
The secularist passionately seeks human progress without any reference to the spiritual dimension of the human person. The secularist is only concerned with this life and has no concern with religion. In fact, the secularist attempts to experience human satisfaction through involvement in seemingly noble enterprises that are in essence missing the total picture of man's true needs.
Secularism keeps us from searching for God; it keeps us from finding true meaning in life. Historically, the Catholic Church has never had to deal with secularism until the arrival of our modern age. Secularism and paganism are very different indeed.
The pagan believes in the transcendent. The pagan has an understanding that there is an afterlife and that the soul is immortal. The pagan also lives by a moral code that has its roots in divine law. In contrast, for the secularist, there is no God, no eternal life, and morality is arbitrarily contrived without any reference to God.
The mission of the Church in the secularist world is very difficult indeed simply because the pagan is much more open to truth and can be easily converted, whereas the secularist is usually as hard as a rock. Sometimes the secularist opens up to the true meaning of life through some terrible tragedy such as a dreadful sickness or even death itself. However, many times the secularist is so closed off to the transcendent that no movement toward God is even possible.
Catholics need to be aware of secularism and not allow it to affect their lives. However, many Catholics have been poisoned by this pervasive system of thought.
It is unfortunate that often even in our liturgies, the transcendent has been replaced with the secular. Many times liturgical practices, music and architecture no longer mirror the transcendent, but rather, they have been reduced to the common and ordinary. Our liturgical life has become either a weekly boring exercise which has caused many Catholics to leave, or it has been converted into weekly pep-rallies. Pope Benedict has recognized a need for the sacred to be discovered in the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. This of course can be achieved, if we were to simply celebrate the Mass the way it is prescribed in the liturgical texts.
Regarding relativism, first we must understand that it differs from secularism. The relativist often believes in God, an afterlife, and the immortality of the soul. However, the relativist believes that the human person is the measure of truth. What is true and what is not true is subject to mere human opinion.
Catholics need to be aware of relativism as well, and not allow it to affect their lives. However, it is also true that like secularism, many Catholics have been also poisoned by relativism. The crisis that relativism has caused has particularly affected the way Catholics understand the moral teachings of the Church. Topics such as abortion, contraception, embryonic stem-cell research and homosexuality have become areas not only of controversy for some Catholics, but according to the news polls, most American Catholics openly defy and criticize the teachings of the Catholic Church on these basic aspects of moral teaching. This is where the sin of pride comes in.
Pride is a terrible sin. Pride says: non serviam; I will not serve; do not tell me what to do. When a Catholic rejects certain aspects of Church teaching, a decision of the will has been made. For example, it is very common today in America, that Catholics use contraception and do not attend Mass on Sundays. It is very common that these same people do not go to confession or even mention these sins within the Sacrament of Confession. It is also very common that these same people continue to receive Holy Communion.
Within this dynamic, which is very common today, what happens is the following: a decision to disobey is made. The person continues to sin and continues to receive the Eucharist unworthily. Eventually, that person's heart becomes hardened by sin and the person is no longer open to God. The soul then dies and the person becomes like the walking dead.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother" (Matthew 2: 10-11).
The journey of the Magi reminds us where the solution for secularism, relativism and pride may be found: the solution is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.
One way that we can easily free ourselves from the errors of our time is to engage upon a serious study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism is one of the greatest legacies of John Paul II's pontificate. Informing our mind and conscience with the truth of the Catholic Church will free us from unfounded opinions and will allow us to be more fully integrated with our Catholic faith. True freedom can only be found in the truth.
Father James Farfaglia, the Happy Priest, is the pastor of Saint Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. Father has a hard hitting blog called Illegitimi non carborundum. He has also published a book called Man to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life. You can contact Father at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can click here for the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.
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