Monday, January 7, 2013

Why Epiphany Is (or Should Be) a Pro-Life Holy Day

"Be a star and, like the Magi, lead others to Jesus and His Mother."

This sentence from the homily I heard at the Epiphany Mass I attended on Sunday morning has been replaying in my mind ever since.

Until now, I have never wanted to be a star, preferring to work behind the scenes, building the set, sewing the costumes, setting the stage, finding the necessary props and providing them to the players at just the right times. To be the kind of star this sermon calls us to be, however, is not, it seems to me, inconsistent with my natural tendencies and preferences. This kind of star anyone can be, even someone who builds sets, sews costumes, and provides props as needed by those who like the spotlight.

In the Epiphany story, the star and the Magi are inseparable. If there had been no Magi, seeking a sign and willing to follow it, the star would have gone unnoticed, its purpose lost. And if there had been no star, the Magi would not have known which way to turn.

What was the star, really? There are theories, some science-based, some not, but ultimately it matters less what, technically, the Magi saw, and more that they saw and responded—out of their belief and faith.

Yesterday's homily also made the point that the Magi found not only Jesus, the child Messiah, but also His mother. This is important not only because the Church teaches that Mary was and is a necessary part of the Incarnation and God's plan of salvation. It is also important because it reveals that we cannot and should not see and respond to any child—whether prenatal or born—without seeing and acknowledging the dignity of his or her mother, and vice versa: we cannot and should not see and respond to any mother without seeing and acknowledging the dignity of her child—including and especially her prenatal child.

To treat a mother with dignity means not telling her that her prenatal child is a soulless clump of cells that can be gotten rid of with the same attitude as one would excise a tumor. It means treating her the way Mary's husband, Joseph, did—doing whatever it takes to support and protect her and her child. It means seeking and finding her and her child, bearing gifts, in order to honor them both.
O, while the star of heavenly grace
Invites us, Lord, to seek Thy face,
May we no more that grace repel,
Or quench that light which shines so well!*

* From "What Star Is This, with Beams So Bright," Charles Coffin, 1736.
** Revised approx. 8:53 pm.

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