Today’s homily is for The Epiphany of the Lord, January 8, 2023, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.
During my college years I had a number of teachers, first here at MJC, and then in Humboldt, who were very antagonistic to faith. They were very vocal about their dislike of religion and sadly, I followed their views and left the Catholic Church. That lasted for over a year until one day when I got sick to my stomach, lonely–an emptiness–and I heard a voice that was not mine that said I need God back in my life. I had never been to church in Arcata, and didn’t even think to look for one, I just wanted to find Jesus and have God in my life.
There was a girl, Stephanie Kent, who shared my major so we had lots of classes together. I had never spoken to her before but she was clearly just the most amazing person. There wasn’t an unkind bone in her body. She said things like, “Oh, scat,” or “Oh, drat,” when things went wrong–you know, just super wholesome. Her eyes were bright and clear and she just radiated life and love and goodness. I just knew there was something special about her. I thought, “I bet she’s a Christian.” After class I stopped her and just asked. I said, “Stephanie, this might be a strange question, but are you a Christian?” “Yes!” she proudly proclaimed. I asked her if I could go with her wherever she went to be Christian. “Yes! Of course!” she said, and I went with her to a Bible study where I encountered Jesus, and my life has never been the same.
The wise men looked up and saw a sky filled with darkness, but in that darkness there was a star that outshone all the rest. Scripture says, “they were overjoyed at seeing the star.” They packed right up, followed that star, and it led them to Jesus and Mary, his mother. On Epiphany Sunday, we remember the wise men who were courageous enough to follow the star that led them to Jesus and Mary. We also remember the star itself that shone brightly in a world of darkness–something they could follow–that was Stephanie Kent for me–she was my star. And not just her, in fact. As I continued to follow Jesus, there have been a number of people who live their faith, love the lord, and shine out as examples to follow. As a boy it was my mom. We prayed each night and before meals, and went to church every Sunday. I stopped following Jesus but then in college it was first Stephanie, and then Keith Phinney and Eric Leong. After graduating it was Fr. John Fitzgerald, in Twain Harte, and especially, Fr. Manuel, at O.L.A. And I was even smart enough at one point to marry a star, and my wife, Jill, has been leading me to a holier, better life ever since.
How important it is for us to live our faith well, to be light and love in this world of darkness. You never know who is looking for a star to lead them to Jesus and Mary. So there are two take-aways here: First, we need to study and know what to look for in the night sky–a good tree bears good fruit, as Jesus said. A star that does not lead to Jesus and Mary is NOT to be followed! Don’t follow stars that lead to sin, death, and destruction– follow the star that leads to life, goodness, and truth.
Secondly, be the star for someone else. Be a person whose words and actions, love and generosity, conviction, passion and purpose shine brightly in this world of darkness and sin. Be the bright, shining star that leads others to Jesus and Mary and salvation. Each of us must follow the star, but each of us is also called to be a star for others. Young people, are you that star at school that Stephanie Kent was for me? Parents, are you that star for your children, leading them by word and example to Jesus and Mary? Are you the person in your workplace that everyone knows is just a little bit different–do you shine a bit more than all the rest.
The star had no idea who was looking for it, it just shined brightly. Stephanie had no idea I had an experience of God and was eagerly searching. She just shined brightly, and she helped me find Jesus. Shine brightly in this world of darkness, the savior is born, and there are still so many who are searching and need to pay him homage.