Now that you’re here, you can stay.
Here in church, I mean.
I’m feeling generous today.
Since you’ve taken the time to get here
it would seem inhospitable for me to ask you to leave.
And if I asked you to leave, you may never return.
You can stay.
I could dispense you from your Catholic obligation to be here.
I have the authority, the power to do so when the need arises.
But I know you’d be disappointed if I said you could leave.
Besides, I want you to stay.
I value your presence. I value what you have to offer.
I value the fact that you could have chosen some other alternative,
some other way to spend your Sunday morning.
But you didn’t.
Something or someone led you to this place.
And if that something or someone is God
then I’d be a fool to go against His wishes.
Bottom line: a decision was made by both you and me.
You decided to be here. I decided to let you stay.
It matters to you to be here; it matters to me that you remain.
Underneath the surface…beyond what can be observed…
lies a system of values, beliefs, commitments and convictions.
Based on these we determine what is important and decide accordingly.
The astrologers, the three Magi, made the decision to follow a star.
This choice reveals their values.
First and foremost, they value the spiritual world.
They give credence to
the presence of divine forces involved in human history.
Their religious texts told them:
“when a new star appears in the sky
a great person has been born.”
These magi also value wisdom;
they are willing to uproot themselves from their everyday lives
to see what this great person could teach them.
And they value adventure;
they are willing to leave their homeland,
and travel to places they’d never been to before.
In the end
because of the values they hold, mixed with human curiosity,
they find the Christ child, the savior of the world.
Like the Magi, we choose what star to follow;
a goal, a mission, a task, a career, that has piqued our interest,
promising some reward we determine to be important.
This star becomes a guiding force, exerts influence upon us,
drives our actions and responses.
If we’re not sure what star we’re following,
we need only look at the decisions we make and what we expect to gain in making them:
- the acquisition of wealth.
- the accumulation of things.
- doing something better than someone else.
- winning the praise of others: parents or peers.
- defeating the competition.
- success, accomplishment, achievement.
When we follow these ambitions, what will happen to us along the way?
And more importantly, what will be waiting for us at the end of our journey?
As we reflect on these questions
evaluate the state of our happiness and inner peace
maybe we realize: “it’s time for me to change direction.
Maybe it’s time to select another star to follow.”
Story: During WWII, navel military exercises were being held off the coast of Maine.
A severe storm blew in from the east.
The captain of one of the ships saw a light in the distance, studied it for a moment,
noticed it wasn’t changing direction,
and concluded it was another ship on a collision course with his own.
He ordered that the following message be sent:
“change course 10 degrees starboard to avoid collision.”
The answer came back: “You change course 10 degrees starboard.”
Irritated, the captain replied: “This is the Admiral General of the Navy.
Change course 10 degrees starboard to avoid collision.”
The reply came back: “This is first class Seaman Arnold Johnson.
You had better change course 10 degrees starboard.”
Finally, in frustration and anger, the captain sent the message:
“This is a battle ship. And I will not take orders from a first class seaman.”
The answer came back: “I understand, sir. But this is a lighthouse!”
No matter how big we are, how much power we have,
how much wealth we’ve accumulated;
no matter how famous we’ve become, how many awards we’ve won,
how many people have thought us beautiful,
how much success we experience;
if we base our decisions solely on worldly ambitions, worldly objectives,
we will be disappointed when we see what is waiting for us at the end of our journey.
We are going to crash.
Oh, we may enjoy the ride for awhile
but disaster awaits us….like a ship being drawn into a rocky coastline.
Christian faith is a star high in the sky enticing us to follow,
challenging us to adopt guiding principles and values
much different than those offered by the world.
Spiritual values, embracing a spiritual purpose, following a spiritual plan,
will lead us to worth-while, life-giving, destinations.
Waiting for us at the end we will find to a child savior in a manger,
a man savior hanging on a cross…a risen savior shining in glory.
If we choose to follow the star called Christianity
we cannot simply settle for what comes our way.
We must be willing to move;
to leave familiar routines and surroundings, like the Magi.
We must muster up the courage,
take a risk to step beyond the boundaries of comfort and familiarity.
We must be willing to allow God to guide us to places we’ve never been before.
To value the Christian life is to adopt virtue:
to value the integrity that comes with doing what is right;
to value the joy and delight that comes with pursuing the good;
to value the peace that comes with living honestly and seeking truth.
The values we hold guide us like a bright star on a dark night.
They determine the direction of our life’s journey.
If we realize our current pursuits are leading us nowhere,
or we realize we have been doing little more than wandering around aimlessly,
if we desire to alter our course,
we must consciously, deliberately select and embrace different values.
Let us choose wisely: after prudent thought and conscious deliberation.
The alternative is to choose foolishly, carelessly and without foresight.
One day the star we follow will bring us to the end of our journey.
Waiting for us, in that place, will be God,
and God decides who will abide with Him forever and who will be asked to leave.
May He say to us, one and all: “Now that you’re here, you can stay!”
Feast of the Epiphany
Now that you’re here, you can stay.