A student comes to his master and asks, "Where can I find God?"
The master says, "God is everywhere; he is right in front of you."
If God is everywhere, and if he is right in front of me, why do I fail to see him?" asks the student.
The master asks, "Why does a drunkard fail to find the way to his home?"
"Because he is drunk!" The student replies.
"OK! Then go find out what it is that makes you drunk, so drunk that you cannot see the presence of God around you."
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."
Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, which means the manifestation of God. The Gospel reading tells us that some wise men from the East came to Jerusalem looking for the king of the Jews because they saw his star. They came to honor him. These men were not drunk with other things in life, but they were the most sobber and learned men of their time. They were more than men who studied the stars. History has called them wise men because they made a quest for God. They were longing and searching for God in their lifetime. They studied Scriptures; they paid attention to signs in the sky and around them. When the newborn king was born, they were able to recognize the sign in the sky; and they were immediately on their way searching for him. They went to Jerusalem to find him, but they could not find Him there. They thought the newborn King should be in the palace, so they went to the palace of King Herod, but they could not find him there either. Finally they saw the star again and followed toward its direction, and it led them to a tiny village of poor, ignorant people; and in a small stable they found the newborn King of the Jews there as a little baby lying in a manger. "On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother." This is the meaning of Epiphany: God manifests Himself to us in the little, poor and humble baby. And see what these wise men do; "they prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
Herod also showed a desire to meet the newborn King. He secretly told the Magi, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage." But Herod's motivation was not sincere. He was so drunk with his own agenda. He was so drunk in the pleasures of this life. He was so drunk with his political power. He was so drunk that he could not see and appreciate the coming of the newborn king of the Jews. Instead, he wanted to get rid of the newborn king in order to secure his power and authority.
To celebrate the Epiphany twelve days after Christmas is to remind us that it took time for the Magi to see the star and then make their way to see the newborn king. It took them time to study Scriptures and the sayings of the prophets concerning the Messiah. It took them time to contemplate the significance of the signs in heaven. It took them time to figure out the best direction to get to the place of the newborn king. They had to give their time for the journey. To meet the newborn king, the Magi had to make a long journey. They were willing to take enormous risks on their long journey away from home and through the desert. They were willing to leave their families and everything else behind in order to go search for the king. It was costly for such a long journey too. In addition, they also came to see the newborn king not with their empty hands but with their "treasures." Once they found the newborn king, they offered him their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And they worshiped him. These Magi showed a tremendous faith and devotion to the newborn king.
Many people including some of us have made many journeys and pilgrimages to different religious places and shrines such as Lourdes, Medjugorie, Fatima, Rome, Assisi, and the Holy Land. We wish to encounter God in those places. But today and every Sunday, we have made our journey to this holy place. We can find God in the midst of this holy assembly. We can find God in the presence of each other if we took time to prepare ourselves before we come. God is right here with us at this moment. We will find God here if we are not so drunk with other things in the secular world. Every Sunday, we take times to leave home to come here to meet the King. Every Sunday we take time to come here to offer our treasures, the fruits from the works of our hands. Every Sunday we take time to come here to worship God and to pay our homage to the King. Every Sunday we come here to offer our families, our hearts, and ourselves to God. We will encounter God and the presence of God here if we are sincerely searching for him as the Magi searching for the newborn king of the Jews. And if we do not experience his presence, we should remember the challenge of the master to the student, "Then go find out what it is that makes you drunk, so drunk that you cannot see the presence of God around you." We also need to rekindle our longing and searching for God with the questing hearts of the Magi, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."
Fr. John Kha Tran