You Are Called to Give Light
“And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.”
The Magi have spent time studying nature, assiduously working to unveil the secrets hidden behind it. Added to their natural efforts, God gives them the light of a star, along with the prophecies of the Scriptures, to guide them to the fulfillment of their desire. And what they discover – what makes their hearts throb and their faces radiant – is not God alone, but Jesus with Mary. The brightness of divinity wrapped up in the ordinary flesh of humanity, framed by a poor humble girl whose face was brightened by the Light she contemplated.
It should be easy for us to see that “darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples.” Sin and the evil one have made this world a dark and confusing place. Yet God has planted in every human heart a longing for the light. And if people ardently seek the truth and live justly, God fulfills that desire by adding the light of his grace to our weak human efforts.
Today’s Magi are earnestly seeking for truth, beauty, happiness, and mercy. They are people in workplaces who have never encountered the Gospel, or only found a twisted, diluted form of it. They are college students who haven’t found fulfillment, and who sincerely desire absolute truth. They are young married couples who, faced with the brand new reality of children, seek answers and stability from someone greater than they. The question is, when these magi come out of the darkness seeking the light, where will they find it?
God promised the world that it could find its fulfillment in Jerusalem. With the advent of Christ, the Church became the New Jerusalem, open to Jews and Gentiles alike. The Son of God did not just come to the earth as pure spirit, seeking to draw people to himself by sheer power and light. Rather, he incarnated himself in humanity and hid himself within the womb of Mary. This Gospel passage proves that those who sought Christ found him with Mary. The image of Mary with the Christ Child is not just a nice picture for our Christmas cards. It is the fulfillment of God’s promises to you and to the whole world. Mary is an image of the Church, in whom the fullness of Christ is to be found. And the light of Christ is “brightly visible on the countenance of the Church,” just as it is on the face of Mary.
So we, as baptized members of the Bride of Christ, sinful though we are, are meant to contemplate Christ and reveal him to those who seek him. The Church, which is the Lumen Gentium (the Light to the Nations) contemplates the radiant face of Christ and maintains “the stewardship of God’s grace,” entrusted first to the apostles, then to their successors. Each of us cooperates in caring for this stewardship, like family members caring for their heirlooms. If this grace is on display in our lives through a life dedicated to contemplation and virtue, then others will be drawn to it, and desire to be part of this family that has God as its Father and Mary as its Mother. Each of us at one point has been a magi, seeking God and being led by his grace. But we are also called to play the part of Mary, dwelling with God within us and humbly manifesting him to others.
Therefore, every vocation in the Church has a contemplative dimension. There are those whose entire life is dedicated to contemplation, and who are bound to Christ through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These people are hidden gems, radiating grace to the entire Church. Like the humble mother of Christ, their life does not appear to be much from the outside. There are no electronics, very little speaking, and none of the distractions that generally entertain us. But these contemplatives are enraptured by their lover, Jesus Christ, and like the wise men of the Gospel they have wisely traded the passing pleasures of this world for a glory that will last forever. Far from being boring, the mysteries they contemplate are inexhaustible. And far from being useless, they are essential to the life of the Church, reminding the rest of us of the heart of our calling and the future life we hope to live.
But those who are not full-time contemplatives are also called to have an “inner cloister” within our hearts. Through the day, we can return to this placevto contemplate the face of God and to see the disparate events of our life in he unified vision of God’s plan, just as Mary did. The fount of this contemplative life is the Mass, where, like Mary, we hear and receive the Word of God first through the Scriptures, then through his Body.
All those who belong to “active” religious orders must have contemplation as their foundation. Mother Theresa required her sisters to spend an hour in adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament before they went out to serve Jesus in the poor. The first calling of every Dominicans priest, brother, or sister isn’t to teach, but to pray. The teaching flows out of the prayer, as St. Dominic called them to “Contemplate, and share the fruits of contemplation.”
A priest who does not pray has lost touch with the very essence of his priesthood. He has become a bachelor, a poor excuse for a social worker or a counselor. Priests have nothing to give if not the graces handed on to them by Christ. Even though the sacraments still accomplish their effects when performed by a priest in the gravest sin, the people of God are robbed of grace when the priest fails to prepare himself for his ministry through prayer.
And married couples must strive to find time in their hectic lives to pray and contemplate. This may be a challenge for those who have children or elderly family members to care for. However, losing the ability to pray is not tragic, but losing the desire to pray is. Spouses and parents should continually ask themselves what they want to give to their families: human success and fleeting happiness, or the divine life of God. The two aren’t always mutually exclusive, but one must take precedence.
As the year begins and we walk with the magi to contemplate the radiant faces of Jesus and Mary, we should not be afraid to ask for the grace of prayer that is long and deep. This is the very lifeblood of our vocation, and it is the inheritance we have as Children of God. Moreover, grace is the only eternal thing that we have to give, and there are people walking in the darkness who urgently need the light that has been entrusted to us. May the Blessed Mother help us to persevere in contemplation and to reveal the face of Christ to those who seek him.