As a young member of the Blue Army of our Lady of Fatima society in Nigeria, I heard about the story of our Blessed Mother Mary appearing to three children in Fatima, Portugal several times in 1917. Reading about this apparition and its urgent message of conversion, prayer, penance, and gospel holiness initiated my conversion experience and instilled in me a great desire to visit Fatima one day. My dream to visit Fatima became a reality after about 20 years when I visited Fatima in 2011 as a priest. I was so overjoyed in my few nights at Fatima that I did not even think much of the terrible flu that I was suffering during my stay there.
My brief visit to Fatima seemed to complete my joy of reflecting for so many years on our Mother Mary’s intense desire for our conversion from sin and fidelity to Christ and His Church. Hearing did not seem to be enough for me; searching was needed to complete my joy.
Sunday’s solemnity of Epiphany is really a joyful celebration of God manifesting Himself to all the nations as Messiah of Israel, Son of God, and Savior of mankind. But our joy at the Epiphany will not be complete until we all begin our own individual journey towards the God who reveals Himself to us. God reveals Himself to us to draw us more and more to Him. Hearing of God’s saving actions alone cannot bring us joy until we begin our own journey to Him along the path that He is drawing us to Himself.
We are told that when King Herod heard of the newborn king, “he was greatly troubled and all Jerusalem with him.” Why was King Herod greatly troubled? He was troubled because he had no good intention to search for the new born King who reveals Himself to him through the magi, the written word, the chief priests and scribes. He had all the information that he needed but he did not search for the new born king. He knew where the child king was to be born as well as the time of his birth. But he never asked why this king was born. He failed to realize that this king was born to reveal God’s loving face to mankind and draw us to Him to share in His own life and beatitude.
Failing to search for the one who revealed Himself, King Herod condemned himself to a constantly troubled heart. On the other hand, the magi from the East let God draw them to Himself through the unique star that they saw in their place. They were not satisfied with the beauty of this star but they began their search for the self-revealing God behind the star’s brilliance. In this journey, away from home and unsure of what to see, they were “overjoyed at seeing the star,” and had their joy completed when they “saw the child with Mary His mother.” Our joy is complete only when we hear and then begin our own journey towards the God who lovingly manifests Himself to us in different ways.
The news of Christmas alone cannot make us joyful. Hearing alone is never enough; we must begin our individual search for the God who reveals Himself. If we do not search for Jesus with all our hearts we will not be joyful but we will always be greatly troubled. St. Paul tells the gentile Ephesians that God is drawing them too to Him through the gospel that the Apostle preaches making them “coheirs, members of the same body and co-partners in the promise in Christ.” In the words of the Catechism, “The desire for God is written in the human heart because man is created by God and for God and God never ceases to draw man to Himself.” (CCC#27) It is in and through Jesus Christ that God ceaselessly draws all nations to Himself. We find our happiness only when we too never cease searching for Him but let Him draw us to Him.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, God is drawing all of us to Himself in different and unique ways for our own happiness. God is surely drawing us as a Church community to give us sure guidance in this constantly changing world. In this sense, the Catholic Church, our Mother and Teacher, is an indispensable instrument through which God draws us to Himself. But God also draws all men and women individually and uniquely to Him in diverse ways and in their conditions and experiences. Being members of the Church does not dispense us from our own individual pilgrimage towards God. We Catholics cannot say to the Church what Herod said to Magi, “Go and search and then bring me word.” Every single one of us must search for Him with the Church to guide us and grace us for this pilgrimage. A refusal to search for Him individually is a choice for a troubled heart.
For us Catholics, God is drawing us to Him in a myriad of ways. He is drawing us to Him individually through the words of the bible we read and reflect upon, through the authoritative teaching of the Church, through the inspirations of His Spirit within us, through the promptings of conscience, through the sacraments of Confession, through the loving service we offer others, through the holiness of life that He inspires in us, through the teachings and examples of the saints, through the joys and pains of daily life, etc. The list is endless. What joy is ours when we let Him draw us to Him through all these?
Most of all, God draws us to Him through the Eucharist we celebrate. It is here that God finds us today. Because He has found us and manifested Himself to us, we can be guaranteed that we will find Him if we search for Him with all our hearts till the very end. Didn’t He assure us, “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you?” Let us not doubt this promise. We will never regret our enduring search for Him who has found us already and revealed Himself to us.
We have heard Him! We have received Him! This is the Good News! But hearing and receiving alone cannot make us joyful. Let us renew and sustain our journey to Him and then and only then will our joy be complete and we will spare ourselves troubled hearts.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!
image: Our Lady of Joy, Brasil/ Shutterstock