Weekly Homilies

What Star is This, Anyway? (Matthew 2: 1-12)

January 07, 2024 Fr. Mark Suslenko Season 7 Episode 4
What Star is This, Anyway? (Matthew 2: 1-12)
Weekly Homilies

Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 4 of Season 7 for the Epiphany of the Lord - January 7, 2024. Our Gospel reading is from Matthew Chapter 2: Verses 1-12.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod,  behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,  “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,  He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,  for thus it has been written through the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” 

Then Herod called the magi secretly  and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said,  “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word,  that I too may go and do him homage.” 

After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,  until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star,  and on entering the house

they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures  and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,  they departed for their country by another way.

“What Star is This, Anyway?” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut

Epiphanies, or moments of inspiration - moments  of connection -  can happen in one of two ways: they can come from within or they can come from without. So, we may be going through an experience  and we stumbled upon a feeling or an insight within ourselves that enlightens what we're encountering,  and we have a revelation of sorts, a change  of perception, a change of feeling,  or we can go be going about the business of our lives and we encounter something outside of ourselves that causes us to stop and take notice that also then has the ability to change our perception, to change our understanding, to change our feeling. So epiphanies, or these revelations, or these moments of inspiration, can happen in one of those two ways from within or from without.  And usually when they occur, either way, they are connected in some way, shape, or form, to our desire for meaning. So as human beings, we naturally have this desire for meaning, for connection, for some sense of relevancy to something bigger than ourselves, some greater purpose in this thing we call life.  

And so these moments of inspiration, these epiphanies, often connect us and enlighten us in terms of that bigger picture.  And so because we're hardwired this way and because these things naturally happen,  we find ourselves, whether we realize it or not, following stars in our life, things that give us focus and direction and anchors.  And a lot of those stars can be very bright and dazzling, very captivating.  

Pope Francis, in a recent reflection  asked a very poignant question. What star do you follow? What star do you follow? It's a question we all have to ask and answer because we do follow them. And sometimes we latch onto these brighter, more dazzling, more powerful stars, and maybe they're connected to something worldly.  Maybe it's an opportunity for advancement in work, so I put all of my energy and my time in following that star. Or maybe it's the need for self-esteem, so I put all of my time and energy into following that star. Maybe it's the star that speaks to me of a freedom from anxiety and worry, and so I do all I can to follow the star that brings me to a safe place and keeps me secure. 

So all of these various stars that present themselves to us are things that we often find ourselves following, and in the midst of all of these dazzling lights that flicker around our lives is the Lord's star.  Now, it's interesting as we read the story of the Wise Men being led by the star, in no way, shape, or form does it ever say that that star is the brightest star that's in the sky. It's just the star that leads to Bethlehem.  So the Lord's star may not be the brightest among those dazzling around us,  but the Lord's star is the gentle star  that is ever present guiding us  and leading us to a different place:  a place that is true, a place that is real, a place that we really seek. 

And so, in the midst of all of those other stars that we sometimes try to follow, they really don't have the ability to lead us anywhere  because they truly are ends in themselves and they often fizzle out  and cease being what we thought they were going to be  -  except for the Lord's star.  And when we stumbled upon that star, when we allow ourselves to be led by that star, we realize that really the Lord is extending his hand to us in a very gentle manner, not as a powerful one, offering himself as a guide to walk with us on the journey of life, to be an interpreter along the road of life, to show us who we really are and where we're going and what's important.  

And so when we allow ourselves to seek that true star, the Lord's star, and find it amongst all those others that are flashing before us,  we then discover that it brings us to a place of freedom. And that's what the wise men encountered. They went in one way and came out another.  And what they discovered was a greater freedom, which really is a deeper trust in God's guidance and providence, a deeper trust in God's guidance and providence. See, because when we stumbled upon the Lord's star, the true star, we really connect to the big picture of our life, not the small one that  earthly desires want us to see, but the bigger picture of our life, and we realize that we are being led, we are being guided, and that there's a bigger power called God involved in this whole business of my life.  

And it causes us to change. It causes the wise men to change. They decided to do things differently  after they met the author of that star, Jesus Christ.  

And that's really where today brings us is to the change of life.  You know, and we have an encounter with Jesus Christ, not in our head, but in our souls, and we allow ourselves to be guided by that star  that comes from God,  that it brings us to a place of change.  It brings us to a place of renewal. It brings us to a place of enlightenment  that we then bring to the other stuff of our life.  Because let's face it, life is all about change.  We know that intellectually, but we fight it, boy, on a practical level,. We don't like change.  But yet, every day presents more change for us,  even on physical level, emotional level, how our lives are put together.  People that I rely upon one day are gone the next, and life simply  changes  and it is all about change. 

So the question becomes, what do I bring to that change? How do I encounter that change?  What star that I'm following is going to direct me through that change so that I can walk through it with some measure of insight. Well, if I'm focused on an earthly star,  a less permanent star, a star that really can't pan out for me, whether it be the star of security or the star of power, or the star of wealth, or the star of whatever,  then when life changes,  I'm going to resist that change and I'm not going to have the ability to encounter it  in the way that I could if I were following the Lord's star.  Because if we are able to follow the Lord's star and encounter change, then we do so with a measure of grace, determination, courage, and conviction.  

It was interesting. This past week we celebrated the Feast of St. John Newman,  and it brought me to a quote that I've used before,  which is so apropos of his.  He says, "Here below to live is to change,.  and to be perfect is to have changed often." so here below to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.  And so somewhere in the mystery of this change, in the encounter of this change,  if we encounter it with the Lord's star guiding us,  we discover this wonderful eternal love.  And it's an abiding guiding love.  We encounter this peacefulness and this tranquility  that reminds us that even though life is changing, and even though things are not where I thought they could be,  I can still encounter them with a certain creativity,  a certain zeal, and a certain trust that God is with me and guiding me and leading me.  And then we find the greatest gift, and that's the gift of hope.  Because until we take hope from our brains and bring it into our hearts and souls, it's not really hope  or at least a useful hope.  But yet, when I allow myself to be truly led and guided by the true star of Jesus Christ,  then regardless of how life changes, how the pieces of the puzzle are put together, it matters less and less, because we know as we go through those tides and changes of life, the graces of God prevail, leading us onward into pastures that are bright and green,  with always a tomorrow and always a new hope, and always a new surprise. 

Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.