When King Herod saw that star, what did it mean to him? Nothing. He didn’t grasp its meaning because poor Herod was trapped in himself. He considered himself a rising star in the Roman Empire, becoming governor of Galilee at age 25. To consolidate his position he banished his first wife and their son, sent hundreds of priests to their deaths, and finally murdered his second wife and their children. And of course he killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem in a fanatical attempt to maintain control. He spent his life seeking to be a star rather than to follow a star, leaving a trail of blood, destruction, and anguish in the wake of his pitiful life.
There’s only two ways to go in this life: up or down. I can be a Herod, or I can be a Wise Man. I can choose to complain, to rant, and to despair, or I can choose to thank God, to edify, and to rejoice in the life God has given me. This joy is not just the power of positive thinking; it is “a cry of recognition and of love,” as St. Therese wrote: “to me, prayer is a surge of the heart, a cry of recognition and love.” All of us, in this new year, are concerned about our nation, about our Church, and about our personal lives. Try not to worry. Try to look up, not down. Everything in the Scriptures urges us to look up: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come … Raise your eyes and look about, and you shall be radiant at what you see.” When we ask and wonder about the question: “what will happen to us this year?” We are inspired to reply that we knew what will happen this year: God’s grace will prevail over every darkness and disorder. Has 2020 left us downcast? Then look up, after the shining example of John the Baptist, and the three Magi.
No one wants to be a Herod, not even Herod. No one wants to kill babies, or their own wife and sons, and live in fear. But unless we study the heavens like the Magi, we will sink with him into chaos. Take the trouble to pray, to look up instead of down, to seek and expect joy. Take the time to stop in the church for a quiet prayer, or gaze through an open window at the horizon, or look into the eyes of someone who lives with you. Training our eyes on the things of God will grant us keen intelligence, unshakeable peace, and enduring joy.
A blessed and happy New Year to you all!