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Bible Reflections View Comments

Journey of a Lifetime
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 5, 2014
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Literature is filled with tales of people traveling halfway around the world only to discover that the heart of what they sought was in the home they left behind. In some cases, we discover we can’t escape ourselves—for good or ill. In other cases, we discover that we had missed what we already possessed in seeking something else. Fewer but no less dramatic are tragic tales of people who refuse to leave their comfort zone and thus miss discoveries they might have made.

Our Gospel for the feast of Epiphany takes place in two different worlds. One is the far-reaching journey of the visitors from the east, the distant Orient. The other is the tightly controlled palace of King Herod the Great.

The visitors from the East are traditionally three in number and referred to as kings. These men, more likely sages and astronomers than kings, were following a star, but it wasn’t some romantic flight of fancy. Their field of study had led them to an awareness of a great event taking place in a distant land, one that was worth a long and arduous journey, the journey of a lifetime. They worked hard at their profession, devoting time to study and calculation. They undertook the journey to which their studies led them. But who’s to say God wasn’t calling them through their life’s efforts?

Matthew tells us the magi arrived at the palace in Jerusalem to ask where the newborn king would be found. King Herod, threatened by the idea of a new ruler supplanting him, sought only to hold on to his own power and missed the message of the Messiah. We know from the story of the slaughter of the innocents that even though the travelers from the east refused to be part of his scheming, Herod still attempted to find and murder the child on his own. Most likely he stayed behind his palace walls while soldiers carried out his orders.

The Magi found the child because they sought him. They knew the signs they had seen and they knew what they sought. They heard the words of the sages and Torah scholars as simple directions, confirmation of their own vision. And they continued on their journey. Our Gospel reading concludes with a telling sentence: “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.” They didn’t stay in Bethlehem—or Jerusalem—but rather returned to their own country changed by the realization of their vision. We can only guess at the stories they told when they arrived home!

We need to be willing to take a risk, to look for something new and to let ourselves be changed by the experience. We might not immediately see how we fit into God’s plan for the world. We might mistakenly see our ordinary lives as insignificant. In reality, however, we are called to be little signs of God’s life and love in a world that would perhaps be blinded by too great a light—or threatened by the dramatic changes God can bring to the world.

While we may have moments of startling insight and divine inspiration, most likely the effort we put into the work to which we have been called will allow us to grow into our work for God. Whether we undertake an actual journey or simply let our imaginations roam, being open to God’s call is all that’s required. We can be sure we will have gifts to offer and stories to tell.


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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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