Quest – Jett Villarin, SJ

Matthew 2:1-12; Solemnity of the Epiphany

If you’ve played Star Wars: Squadrons, a space combat game, you might wonder about navigation in the Star Wars universe. GPS will not work. You can waze your way only if your destination is here on earth. If you’re going to some galaxy far, far away, you will need to follow the stars.

On a deeper level, we do still follow stars here on earth. We allow these lights to guide our actions, shape our thoughts and feelings, and affect the heading of our lives. These lights can be people, ideas or teachings, images and icons, or even objects of desire.

Some of these stars are pretty and bright but fake. And willingly or blindly, we follow them because, well, they are reachable, we feel good and secure, and they reinforce what we want to believe. Other lights feed on our inordinate fixation with order or power. Some stars constellate on riches, honors, and pride.

We follow these lights like moths to a flame because they are captivating and we think they will get us to wherever on earth we are going.

Come to think of it, with this pandemic throwing the world into disarray, do we even know where we are going? Covid, with its current toll of 1.83 million lives lost, has turned the matter of our lives inside out. Is there a point to this journey? Where are we headed? What is our destiny?

The same questions must have crossed the minds of the ​magi​ on their way to the manger. The story of the wise men in the Gospel today is about their quest for this “newborn king of the Jews”, with only a star at night to guide them. These ancient astrologers did their calculations at home, embarked on their quest, took a dangerous detour to power (when they paid Herod a courtesy call) before they finally found the Child of Bethlehem.

The story of the magi​ prompts us to wonder about the quest of our lives.

What is your quest? Is there some quest that propels you to go on living? Or is much of life just riding it out, cruising along on autopilot? What is it that you seek the most from this life? What will you give (or even give up) to bring you closer to your quest?

To know where your life is headed, you only need to look at what you are always calculating and counting, the stars you believe are worth following, and the gifts you bring in homage to whatever or whoever it is you have chosen to rule your life.

The big quest of the world these days is for a vaccine. When we do recover, and we shall recover, what then? What next?

The quest of the ​magi​ invites us to reexamine the many quests of our lives. Their journey summons us to let go of our calculations and detours, and make for the little Child of Bethlehem who is the big quest of all quests in life. Their joy upon seeing the star moves us to constellate our dreams around the star of Bethlehem, the light of Christ, the light that shines in the darkness and gives light to the world.

To see his light, you only need to follow the trail of people who continue to radiate refreshing selflessness and compassion in this time of affliction. Follow the path of oblation and generosity which people have taken especially now amid other avenues of self-conservation and protection. Follow the star they follow in their lives. Follow the light of Christ from every flicker of hope and faith and love they have become for others. Mysteriously, their light is never just their own. They are lumen de lumine, light from light, as Christ is light from the light of God.

Someday we shall fly to other galaxies when these become reachable. But the galaxies will never be our final destination. Nor is the grave our final stop. We are made from the stuff of stars and even if stars are not forever, in faith we hold on to God who means for us to live with him forever. To live with God forever. This is our heading. This is the quest of our lives.

And by the grace of God we shall reach our quest, no matter the darkness or distance, with light to guide us from the star of Christ.

*image from Encyclopedia Britannica

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