True Worship and Authentic Joy

It was my favorite rosary beads and I had had it for over fifteen years. It had great sentimental value, having been my constant companion in the joys and pains of my many life transitions. Now it was lost. I had just prayed this my beloved rosary on the first leg of my trip from Manila. Now I was desperately searching for it in my carry-on luggage in the airport in Singapore while waiting for my connecting flight to Rome. Then I noticed a hole in my breast pocket from where it must have fallen. My beloved rosary was lost for good. Most importantly, I lost my peace. Lifting my heart to God in a prayer of lament and help, Jesus’ response was direct and timely, “Am I not here in your heart and you are losing your peace over a set of rosary beads?”

We lose our peace and joy when we fail to realize that we are to use all God’s gifts faithfully and gratefully to draw closer to God but we worship God alone. God had used those rosary beads of mine all these years as His gift to draw me ever closer to Him through the constant contemplation of the mysteries of His life, passion, death and resurrection and the assisting prayers of His Mother Mary. But I cannot worship the rosary beads. It is time to let go. It has done its part and I can always get another one. I can do without those particular beads but I lose my peace when I let anything hinder me from worshiping God alone.

In today’s Gospel, the magi show us how to use everything to draw closer to the living and true God and find deep joy by doing so. They saw a mysterious star and allowed God to draw them to Him through the star. They did not seek to worship the star but the king to whom the star belonged, “We saw His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.” Even though all of Jerusalem was disturbed by their presence and quest, the magi used the information from Herod to continue their journey in search of the infant king. They did not lose their goal of paying homage to the infant even when the star once disappeared from their view. Refusing to worship the star but letting God lead them to Him through the star, their journey was one of deep joy, “They were overjoyed at seeing the star.” Seeing the child with Mary, His mother, they worshipped the child alone and offered their gifts to the child, “They prostrated themselves and did him homage…They offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”  Because they used the gifts of God faithfully and gratefully in drawing closer to worship God, their joy remained and God began to guide them interiorly, “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.”

On the other hand, Herod and the entire Jerusalem were left “greatly disturbed” because, though they had the gift of divine revelation of the birth of the child and where He was to be born, they did not make a single effort to draw closer to the God who was revealing Himself. The added gift of the magi’s good example in searching for the new born king made no impression on them. Refusing to respond to divine promptings and leave their comfort zone and make any changes in their lives, they forfeited the peace that comes from the true worship of God that was being offered to them.

The message of today’s Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is clear – God reveals Himself to us in Jesus Christ so that we can give true worship to God alone. God reveals Himself completely in the child Jesus so that, no matter our past sins, future worries, or present trials, we do not have to hide any more or shy away from authentic worship of God alone, using His gifts to draw closer to Him. The more authentic our worship of God is, Jesus, the “author and perfect of our faith,” also “dwells in our hearts through faith.” By the presence of Jesus in us, He leads us away from false worship to that true worship of God alone that brings us deep abiding joy.

St. Paul reminds the Ephesians that all of us, by the grace of God, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, are now “co-heirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” One thing that we inherit from Jesus is that authentic worship of the Father alone that we see in Jesus. He received all from the Father, “All that the Father has is mine.” He used it all for the worship of the Father, “I have glorified you on earth by completing the work that you gave me to do.”(Jn 17:4)

If we are going to enter into the deep abiding joy of Jesus, then we must be ready to use all His gifts, not as we want to use them, but to draw ever closer to Him and refusing to worship those gifts by thinking we cannot do without them or we just cannot get enough of them. We must make discerned use of the gift of time in this New Year, the gift of our natural talents and abilities, our spiritual resources, our health, our knowledge, body, mind, heart, etc in this regard while worshipping the giver of gifts alone.

We must also be ready to let Jesus purify us in our worship. It is so easy for us to say we worship God while worshipping other things like money, fame, pleasure, self, etc. It is so easy for us to enter this false worship because we easily make creatures into the Creator and seek to possess and enjoy them for their own sake without asking if these are bringing us closer to the heart and mind of the giver. The Creator has taken the form of a creature today and revealed Himself to us freely so that we can worship Him alone.

One of Jesus’ special gifts to us is the gift of His own Mother Mary, a precious gift that He offered to us through the beloved disciple with His dying breath on the cross, “Son, behold your mother.” Like the magi, who “saw the child with Mary His mother,” but offered worship to the child alone, we must never forget that Mary is not to be worshipped as people accuse us Catholics of doing. Besides, Mary is all about leading us to give true worship to God, “My soul rejoices in God my Savior.” True devotion to Mary is a gift that lets us share in Mary’s own perfect worship of God. Mary’s worship of God is utterly unique because her son is also her God. She worshipped and surrendered to God with pain on the cross of Calvary the very same one that she had received and worshipped with joy as a gift from God from the day of the Annunciation. Because we become like what we love, loving Mary, depending on her prayers, imitating her example and having esteem for her simply because she is one of Jesus’ special gifts to us opens our hearts to share in her own intense and authentic worship that brings the God-man into our hearts. None of Jesus’ gifts to us is superfluous or unnecessary, most importantly, the gift of His Mother Mary.

Every Eucharist, like this one, is an epiphany, Jesus revealing Himself to us so that we can have true participation in His own perfect worship of the Father. The Eucharist is also where worship of God is guaranteed to lead to God dwelling in our hearts. The deep and abiding joy of the Lord will surely be ours when we use all His gifts in drawing ever closer to Him without worshipping His gifts but worshipping God and God alone.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

Fr. Nnamdi Moneme, OMV

By

Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at  www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.

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