As we welcome the Baby Jesus into our hearts this Christmas, we will do well to remember and reflect on these excerpts from the message of Blessed John Paul II to the Youth of the World in August 2005 during the celebration of the 20th World Youth Day. Let us also follow the way of the Magi to Bethlehem and beyond, to the sacrifice of the Eucharist as again the late Holy Father explains this new life in a 1988 homily in celebration of the Eucharist.
It is true to say that the light of Christ had already opened the minds and the hearts of the Magi. “They went their way” (Matt 2:9), says the Evangelist, setting out boldly along unknown paths on a long, and by no means easy, journey. They did not hesitate to leave everything behind in order to follow the star that they had seen in the East. Imitating the Magi, you are also making preparations for your (life’s) journey, carefully preparing yourselves spiritually, in an atmosphere of faith and listening to the Word of God.
“And the star … went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matt 2:9). The Magi reached Bethlehem because they had obediently allowed themselves to be guided by the star. Indeed, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matt 2:10). It is important, my dear friends, to learn to observe the signs with which God is calling us and guiding us. When we are conscious of being led by Him, our heart experiences authentic and deep joy as well as a powerful desire to meet Him and a persevering strength to follow Him obediently.
The Magi found Jesus at “Bethlehem” which means “house of bread”. In the humble stable in Bethlehem on some straw lay the4 “grain of wheat” who, by dying, would bring forth “much fruit” (cf Jn 12:24). When speaking of Himself and His saving mission in the course of His public life, Jesus would later use the image of bread. He would say, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the bread which came down from heaven”, “the bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh”. (Jn 6:35,41,51)
In the stable at Bethlehem He allowed himself to be worshiped under the humble outward appearances of a newborn baby, by Mary, by Joseph and by the shepherds. In the consecrated Host we adore Him sacramentally present in his body, blood, soul and godhead, and He offers himself to us as the food of eternal life. The Mass then becomes a truly loving encounter with the One who gave himself wholly for us.
“They fell down and worshiped Him” (Matt 2:11). While the Magi acknowledged and worshiped the baby that Mary cradled in her arms as the One awaited by the nations and foretold by prophets, today we cal also worship Him in the Eucharist, and acknowledge Him as our Creator, our only Lord and Savior.
“Opening their treasures they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt 2:11). The gifts that the Magi offered the Messiah symbolized true worship. With gold, they emphasized His Royal Godhead; with incense, they acknowledged Him as the priest of the New Covenant; by offering Him myrrh, they celebrated the prophet who would shed His own blood to reconcile humanity with the Father.
Dear friends, you too offer to the Lord the gold of your lives, namely, your freedom to follow Him out of love, responding faithfully to His call; let the incense of your fervent prayer rise up to hi8m, in praise of His glory; offer Him your myrrh, that is your affection of total gratitude to Him, true Man, who loved us to the point of dying as a criminal on Golgotha.
May Mary, “Eucharistic woman” and Mother of Wisdom, support you along the way, enlighten your decisions, and teach you to love what is true, good and beautiful. May she lead you all to her Son, who alone can satisfy the innermost yearnings of the human mind and heart. Journey on with my blessing!
The Eucharist, the Bread of Life, calls us to new life. The Eucharist is the sacrament of the path Christ traversed in coming to us from the Father; and it is the path along which he returns to the Father, leading us as participants in the eternal redemption. Each time we gather to participate in the Eucharist of Christ, we walk the same path with him.
This is the path of the sacrifice that seals the new and everlasting Covenant of God with man and of man with God. … Precisely this is life, the new life that is born in each of us from the sacrifice of Christ. The Eucharist calls us incessantly to this rebirth. The “dead works” must give way to the acts of living faith. These are the acts of charity, which permit us to participate in God’s life. For God is love.
–Reprinted from the December 2006 KAPATIRAN.