We are just a few short days into our new calendar year, and perhaps already any resolutions we might have made have already fallen by the wayside. Yet our desire for change and a better future as we begin a new year is perfectly understandable. After all, without a desire for growth and development, what would our lives be like?
However, what does it say to others if our changes are only materialistic, vain, self-centered, fuelled by greed or wrong ambition? Anyone can have goals, targets and ambitions, but as Christians these should be more than just a self-directed attempt for certain natural or materialistic desires of self-improvement.
The story of the Magi, the wise men, which is at the heart of this great solemnity of the Epiphany, is a story of a life changing revelation and encounter with the Word Incarnate, the Christ Child. They were seekers of truth so as to better their lives and their search brought them to the very source of that truth in the Christ Child. And having done Him homage, and offering Him gifts they return to their place of origin by another route, transformed and changed by their encounter, taking the message of salvation with them.
The story itself has an important message for our times. The need to set a different course in life which so clearly manifests itself at this time of year is an expression of a deeply rooted desire to find fulfillment. Seekers will always be restless in their hearts unless they allow themselves to be drawn into an encounter, and then a living relationship with Christ and His Church. If that can happen, then life should no longer simply be a self-directed search for self-improvement. Our goals as Catholics should be made clear by what He has taught and made possible by cooperation with His grace. It is through this encounter and relationship with Christ that the human quest for happiness and fulfillment is given shape and direction.
What I have said should be reasonably familiar to us as Catholics. And yet somehow we, who have heard the Good News of salvation, still get caught in the same kind of struggles as non-Christians, and we often show little or no sign that we have had that encounter with Christ, or any evidence that we are truly in relationship with Him. Our lives, rather than heading in the direction shaped for us by grace, remain within the confines of our own attempts at self-improvement and rather shallow desires.
One key thing about our celebration of the Epiphany is that it should bring us back to an encounter with the Child in the manger and so back to the object of our faith. And having encountered Him again, and worshipped Him, as the wise men did, we should go on our way in life this new year by a different path, with lives lived in and through a growing relationship with Him.