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Bible Reflections View Comments

Journey of a Lifetime
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 5, 2014
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Literature is filled with tales of people traveling halfway around the world only to discover that the heart of what they sought was in the home they left behind. In some cases, we discover we can’t escape ourselves—for good or ill. In other cases, we discover that we had missed what we already possessed in seeking something else. Fewer but no less dramatic are tragic tales of people who refuse to leave their comfort zone and thus miss discoveries they might have made.

Our Gospel for the feast of Epiphany takes place in two different worlds. One is the far-reaching journey of the visitors from the east, the distant Orient. The other is the tightly controlled palace of King Herod the Great.

The visitors from the East are traditionally three in number and referred to as kings. These men, more likely sages and astronomers than kings, were following a star, but it wasn’t some romantic flight of fancy. Their field of study had led them to an awareness of a great event taking place in a distant land, one that was worth a long and arduous journey, the journey of a lifetime. They worked hard at their profession, devoting time to study and calculation. They undertook the journey to which their studies led them. But who’s to say God wasn’t calling them through their life’s efforts?

Matthew tells us the magi arrived at the palace in Jerusalem to ask where the newborn king would be found. King Herod, threatened by the idea of a new ruler supplanting him, sought only to hold on to his own power and missed the message of the Messiah. We know from the story of the slaughter of the innocents that even though the travelers from the east refused to be part of his scheming, Herod still attempted to find and murder the child on his own. Most likely he stayed behind his palace walls while soldiers carried out his orders.

The Magi found the child because they sought him. They knew the signs they had seen and they knew what they sought. They heard the words of the sages and Torah scholars as simple directions, confirmation of their own vision. And they continued on their journey. Our Gospel reading concludes with a telling sentence: “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.” They didn’t stay in Bethlehem—or Jerusalem—but rather returned to their own country changed by the realization of their vision. We can only guess at the stories they told when they arrived home!

We need to be willing to take a risk, to look for something new and to let ourselves be changed by the experience. We might not immediately see how we fit into God’s plan for the world. We might mistakenly see our ordinary lives as insignificant. In reality, however, we are called to be little signs of God’s life and love in a world that would perhaps be blinded by too great a light—or threatened by the dramatic changes God can bring to the world.

While we may have moments of startling insight and divine inspiration, most likely the effort we put into the work to which we have been called will allow us to grow into our work for God. Whether we undertake an actual journey or simply let our imaginations roam, being open to God’s call is all that’s required. We can be sure we will have gifts to offer and stories to tell.


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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog A hero isn’t someone born with unconquerable strength and selflessness. Heroes are not formed in a cataclysmic instant. Heroism is developed over time, one decision after another, moment by moment, formed by a deliberate, chosen, and habitual response to life.

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