One of the intriguing symbols of the Christmas season is the Star of Bethlehem that led the Magi to adore the newborn King. Seeing that heavenly body, the Wise Men left their native lands in search of a new cosmic event that would bring unprecedented peace to humanity. As long as they kept their eyes fixed firmly on the star, their journey was on course. Once the star disappeared from their sight, they were lost. When they were lost, they sought counsel from someone who was determined to destroy the Christ Child. Their error was that they sought guidance from a self-serving tyrant who could lead them astray. Retracing their steps towards Bethlehem they found the star once again and their journey ended successfully with the adoration of the Baby Jesus.
Astronomers and Scripture scholars have debated over what heavenly body might have emerged in the night sky around the birth of Jesus. They do not seem to concur in their conclusion and they are unable to pinpoint the celestial event. It is not crucial that we identify that star. For, in the mind of Matthew, the evangelist, the star symbolizes the need for a guide in order to reach the cave of Bethlehem and adore the King. It points to the need we have of a guiding star to live out our Christian calling and at the end of our earthly sojourn to reach our heavenly home.
Who will be our guiding star? Our primary and absolute star is God who has revealed Himself in His Son, Jesus. Fortunately for us, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. The Divinity is invisible but in Jesus He becomes visible. He is beyond our senses. In Jesus He becomes accessible to our senses. If we want to know how God loves us, it is enough to discover how Jesus loved people. If we want to know how God forgives, it is enough to hear the parables that Jesus told. Thanks to the New Testament writers we can come face to face with the person of Jesus through the pages of the Bible. In order to make Jesus our guiding star, we must listen to His words and put them into practice. We must live by the standards of the gospel and the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount. We will find sure guidance in the words of Scripture.
Someone may say that today we face different challenges and newer questions. How can the Bible enable us to resolve the fresh moral dilemmas that we face? That is where the role of the Church comes in. If we believe that the Church is the extension of the Living Christ in space and time, then we need to be guided by the Holy Spirit in the Church. We Catholics are fortunate to have the teaching ministry of the Church and in our day-to-day dilemmas the Magisterium gives us the necessary guidance to remain faithful. A serious Catholic will follow the wisdom of the Church because by the personal assurance of the Lord Himself she is guided by the Holy Spirit.
There is one more level in this intricate process of discernment. We need to bring the teachings of Jesus as interpreted by the Church into dialogue with our own conscience. However, any conscience will not do; ours must be a rightly formed conscience. With regard to the formation of right conscience, the Catechism of the Catholic Church writes:
Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. (CCC #1783)
We do not blindly follow; we prayerfully discern. In every situation we need to ask sincerely: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” Sometimes we may experience doubt and uncertainty. But if we entrust ourselves completely to Him, He will lead us where we ought to go.
The light of the stars is visible only in the darkness of night. There are too many stars in the secular firmament and they constantly attempt to seduce us. The secular society, the political parties, the pop culture and media pundits claim to know what we should be and how we should behave. They want to be our guides and counselors in every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately many in our time turn to these false guides for their answers. If we want to follow our Ultimate Guide, Jesus Christ, we need to ignore and even eliminate these charlatans who lead us to emptiness and even destruction.
As we begin another year, let us resolve to choose Jesus as our only Guide. Let us listen to His voice and follow in His steps. Let us prayerfully surrender to His will and go wherever He may lead us. In 2017 let our prayer be the following:
Lord, I will go wherever You want me to go,
Do whatever You want me to do,
Say whatever You want me to say,
And give away whatever You want me to give away.
I pray that the blessings of this Christmas season accompany you all through the New Year. May the Christ Child continue to smile on us, our families, and our parish!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...