I was struck by a question I encountered yesterday. In a woman's group I belong to, one of the members asked, "Does anyone ever feel like God hates you?"
This is a common question. Many people see bad and wonder how God can even exist. People feel as if they are always being good, but nothing ever comes of it. Today's readings (especially the Gospel), however, shows us how important free will is and the overwhelming power of good:
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. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. (Matthew 2:9-12)The Magi seek the star, which leads them to the Christ child. As believers in signs, they trust a dream, which tells them not to return to Herod. They chose to leave by another route and not risk the child's life. What faith they had!
God never gives you anything you cannot handle. We go through sufferings in life just as Christ suffered for us, on the cross and through human temptations and lamentations. These sufferings, if we so choose, can be signs which lead us closer to Christ. The priest said in the homily today - think of what Mary, who carries so many things in her heart, must have felt when she received the gifts from the Magi: gold, given only to Kings; frankincense, given in homage to the Savior; and myrrh, used in burials, given as a reminder of the baby's humanity and eventual death.
When we consider that God sent his only Son to suffer death on a cross for the redemption of our sins, and when we ponder the very essence of love and how we are on this earth because we were created of Love and for love, we cannot believe or even think God hates anyone. Only the Devil plants seeds of hate. When you feel weak and wonder why God is not intervening, ask yourself: "Have I offered this up to God? Have I asked God for help? Do I want a specific outcome or am I open to God's plans for me?"
Or are you thinking like Herod, and would like to try to fix the end game out of fear? And what of grace?
The Magi followed a star. We follow a much less elusive guide, and still, at times, we can feel lost. And while we are not guaranteed a happy life, we can have a joyful one. On this Solemnity of the feast of the Epiphany, allow the words of the second reading seep into your heart:
Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6)Have a blessed day! May you find the Christ child and be able to offer to him your most precious gift: that of self, and a devotion of your life in worthy adoration to our Lord.
"The Wise Men" by G.K. Chesterton
Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.
Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all the labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but truth.
We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And serve the made gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.
The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.
Go humbly ... it has hailed and snowed...
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.
The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.
The Child that was ere worlds begun
(... We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone...)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.
The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.
Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.
Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/ We Three Kings" sung by The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan (one of my favorite versions and Christmas songs)