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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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