There is a story that the Missionaries of Charity tell of Mother Teresa. The story is about a Hindu man that Mother Teresa saw lying in the streets of Calcutta and whom she took home to one of the many houses they have for people who are dying. She cared for him for many days, feeding him, bathing him, and simply talking with him as one person to another, giving him the respect that he deserved as a child of God. As it became clear that he was soon going to die, she would say to him often, “You have nothing to be afraid of; soon you are going to be with Jesus, soon you are going to be with Jesus.” As the man had spent most of his life as a Hindu, he didn’t really know a lot about Jesus and so, moments before he died he looked at this woman who had taken him in off the streets, provided him with food and shelter and clothing and dignity and asked her, “Is this Jesus anything like you?”
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as the Feast of the Manifestation. When Jesus made himself known to the whole world, not just to the Jewish people but to the whole gentile world as well. In today’s Gospel there are a few key figures that we could focus on; there’s Jesus, His mother Mary, King Herod, the Magi. And there’s the star. It was the star that the Magi followed from some far away country. The star led them to Jesus, God born in the flesh for the salvation of all the world. Mother Teresa led that Hindu man to Jesus, just as the star led the Magi to Jesus. Without the appearance of that star, presumably, the Magi would never have left their homeland, would never have met Jesus, and would have remained in ignorance not only about who God is but about the ultimate purpose of life and what it truly means to be human and how to be happy.
As God once provided those Magi with that star so as to lead them to His son, so in every age He provides “stars” so as to help draw people to Jesus. In his letter on “Hope” Pope Benedict wrote, “Human life is a journey. Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope.” “Certainly,” the Pope continues, “Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach Him we also need lights close by, people who shine with His light and so guide us along our way.” Now as we know the greatest of all those close by stars is our Mother Mary. But there have been countless other stars who have shown us the way, who have lived good lives, and have made Jesus known to us. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was one of them.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, as we reflect upon the stars in our lives. The stars that have helped us to know Jesus and how to truly live. I think that today our Lord is offering each of us a challenge. That challenge is to become more and more a star ourselves. Not a popstar, not a Kardashian type star, but a star of divine light. The baptismal call, the mission, given by God to each of us is to, in some way, be intentional about helping others come to know Jesus. We do this by the witness of our lives and by our words. We can’t be silent about our faith. It can’t be hidden.
The mission is simply this: to know Jesus and to make Him known. The mission is to let the light of Jesus shine through us, not for an hour once a week but in all the hours of the whole week. The mission is to have the intention in every situation, wherever we are, to bring Jesus by the witness of our lives and the words we 0speak. This was Mother Teresa’s intention; it’s why she made such an impression on the whole world. She was a light of Christ. She had the aroma of Jesus as St. Paul would say.
Hundreds of years before Mother Teresa there was another star who single-handedly, not in legend but in fact, converted all of Ireland. St. Patrick is famous for many things and there is a prayer that he prayed at the start of each day. It’s called the Breastplate of St. Patrick; in it he prays to be so conformed to Jesus Christ that when others see him they see only Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate goal of Christianity; to be another Christ. It might be a great prayer for us as we begin 2023. It goes like this: “Christ be in the eyes of all who see me, in the ears of all who hear me, on the lips of all who speak of me, in the minds of all who think of me, in the hearts of all who love me. Christ be before me, behind me, above me, beneath me; Christ on my right and my left. Christ be my all.”
May our lives, like the Star of Bethlehem, Mother Teresa, and St. Patrick, help lead others to Jesus.
Peace and all good,
Fr. Christopher Ankley