Homily

Today is the feast of the Epiphany. The 3 Magi came from the East to worship and offer gifts to the Infant Jesus. We'll reflect on this CALL to them by the Holy Spirit.

We know very little about the Magi. They saw a "Star in the East". They knew something about a "newborn King of the Jews". They followed the "Star", but their GPS system was off by about 15 miles, so they ended up in Jerusalem. They had to ask King Herod about this new "King of the Jews". Herod knew nothing but he called together the Chief Priests and Scribes. They told the Magi and Herod that Micah prophesied that "out of little Bethlehem of Judea will come a leader who will rule My people Israel". The Magi left. They again saw the "Star". They followed it to the house where the Infant Jesus with Mary and Joseph were staying. The Magi worshiped Him, gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and scooted home to avoid going back to Herod.

Almost for certain they were scholars and also astronomers. The names, Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar, are later traditions. They were not Jews, but had to have had some knowledge of Jewish Writings to know about a newborn "King of the Jews". That they understood the CALL is clear.

But now let's imagine what possibly happened on the trip, since the Magi were human beings, and, like us, they had imperfections.

The three Magi are at first excited because they felt CALLED to find the new born "King of the Jews". Up on their camels they go following the "Star". After 3 camel days, Balthasar begins to have some doubts. He asks Melchior: "Where are we going and what if we find nothing there?" Melchior shoots a look at Balthazar that would kill if it could. Melchior isn't known for understanding. Balthasar just shuts up, keeping his doubts to himself.

After seven camel days Caspar - the quiet one with a deep belief in this "Call" - complains about having left his camel liniment behind. But he just goes on, believing deeply that he is being called to see the newborn "King of the Jews". Balthasar feels somewhat isolated and keeps to himself for the rest of the trip.

After about ten camel days they arrive in Jerusalem. They have no idea where to look, so they go to King Herod. As above, Herod doesn't have the foggiest idea of what they are talking about. But he calls together the Chief Priests and the Scribes. They tell the Magi and him that the Prophet Micah said that "out of little Bethlehem of Judea will come a leader who will rule My people Israel".

So off they go again. The "Star" reappears and rests over the house where the Infant Jesus with Mary and Joseph are now living. They go in, understand in their own way what they are seeing, bow in worship and leave the Infant Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They avoid going back to Herod

Once back home, Balthasar brags "See, I knew it all the time". Melchior is fuming but for once does nothing. He feels a sense of wonder. Caspar, the deepest thinker of them, keeps reflecting over this mysterious CALL, its fulfillment and what it now means to him. However, he does say he will never ride a camel again.

The various reactions of the 3 Magi in this imagined story are similar to the way each of us might respond to a CALL of the Holy Spirit to us. We don't see many because a CALL by the Holy Spirit is going to be for some huge endeavor. Sometimes it is. But most of the time, the CALL is to smaller things in our everyday life. Our answer to a CALL can range from refusing to even hear it, to being afraid where the CALL might lead, to a "You've got to be kidding" or to OK".

Our major "CALL" is to live as Jesus Our Shepherd did. Humbly and with Love. To do this we need a Christian Community where Prayer and Fellowship are present. So we have chosen Jesus Our Shepherd as our Christian Community. But our "CALL" even here continues in trying to make this Community ever more vibrant and inclusive.

But, and this is a big but, the Holy Spirit calls us to many things. Marriage, raising Children, Holy Orders to serve Christian Communities, ministries in our Worship Community, employment, retirement, seeking Peace and Justice for those unable to achieve it, and so on. Like the Magi we can answer "OK", but we can also be tentative, unsure, ready to run away like Jonah, or even, after we've begun, to have doubts about what we are doing. We need an active life of reflection to hear them and a prayer life to follow them. We have to be humble and accept that we will not answer the CALL perfectly as we are human and as such imperfect. Perhaps a good way is some brief quiet time in the morning just listening. And then in the evening looking back and see our many CALLINGS by the Spirit that day.

Three monks are walking. One monk says he is frustrated because he's been trying for the perfect prayer for 38 years and hasn't achieved it. The second monk says this is really a pity. The third monk says the pity is that after 38 years he is still trying for the perfect prayer. We are imperfect human beings and we might as well accept it. Trying to act perfectly is "playing God", not being human. All God expects is that we try to answer the CALL of the Holy Spirit as well as we can.

What are common CALLS by the Spirit? A hug and kiss to our Spouses, accepting that our children and grandchildren will continue nipping at us like guppies, praising someone who has done well, visiting someone sick, shoveling snow for a neighbor, preparing a meal for one in need, apologizing to someone as well as many, many other such things. We often do not see these as CALLS of the Spirit because we are too busy waiting for the "Big Ones".

A Benedictine monk who was walking with a friend on the Abbey grounds. The monk said the hardest part of his CALLING as a monk was not the early morning rising, the work, the regimented life, living with others and so on. The hardest part was a little thing, constantly opening the door for a fellow monk. "We as Benedictines are to see Christ in our fellow monks. But after opening the door over and over again, I am at times ready to say 'O Christ, it's You again'!!!" Imperfection. Frustration.

All we have to say is "Here I am, Lord, to do Your Will".

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