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Evangelize Like a Star

December 30, AD2014

Merry Christmas to all! I do hope you are continuing to celebrate the entire season of Christmas. The traditional twelve days of Christmas climaxes with the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the Magi bearing gifts for the Christ Child.

Reflections on Epiphany often focus on the gifts. We are called to count our blessings and recognize them as gifts from God. We consider our talents and abilities as gifts that we can offer to the Christ Child. We remember the virtue of gratitude. It is common in many ethnic communities to exchange presents on Epiphany instead of Christmas Day in keeping with the theme of gifts for this feast day.

While the gifts of the Magi offer worthy and valuable meditations, I would like to concentrate instead on the star.

The Wise Men were drawn to Christ by the light of a single Christmas Star. The star made no sound. There were no blaring trumpets or chorus of angels. There was only light. In that sense, the star’s role in the Christmas narrative seems passive and almost unintentional. Yet it was enough to inspire three kings to leave the comfort of their homes, traverse an unknown path, and bow down in homage to a child.

As we consider renewed efforts at evangelization and the proclamation of the Gospel, it is easy to think that if we only speak up with enough volume and force our message will be heard and embraced. But such a noisy approach can be overwhelming and drive people away.

The Feast of Epiphany is an excellent time to contemplate an alternative. Instead of using our words, perhaps our evangelical strategy would be more effective if we concentrated on making our lives a brilliant star that draws others to Christ.

I think this is what Pope Francis is emphasizing as he repeatedly encourages us to be joyful. In one of his daily homilies the Holy Father warns that Christians who lack joy and have the faces of “pickled peppers” hurt the Church. The first words of his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium are:

 The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.

After all, if we truly believe the Gospel we proclaim, how could we not be joyful? This is not say that we will always be happy. Happiness is a superficial expression of momentary pleasure that fades when the moment is gone. Joy, on the other hand, endures through grief, challenges, disappointments, and pain. Christian joy is born of the certainty of our faith. We are confident that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to redeem us. No earthly trial can overcome that love.

An emphasis on joy is not a new idea. St. Teresa of Avila famously said, “God protect me from gloomy faced saints!” The Baltimore Catechism instructs us in question six that God created us for eternal joy.  The Feast of Epiphany is the perfect time to reflect on how we reveal that joy to others. As people of faith, it is understandable that we are offended, pained, and even angered by sin. All sin is an affront to the faithful and damages the body of Christ. But we will have limited success in calling sinners to repentance if our primary strategy is to stand with fingers pointed bellowing a litany of prohibitions and condemnations.

Successful evangelization depends on selling others on the superiority of Christian virtue over vice. In order to do that we must manifest the profound and unshakeable joy made possible by Christian virtue. Like the Star of Bethlehem, our joy must radiate from our lives and beckon others to come closer. As they approach we pray that they will experience an epiphany and see that like the Christmas Star, our authentic joy is a light guiding them to the source of all joy, Christ Our Savior.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Denise's vocation is being a wife, mother, and grandmother. Her occupation has wound its way through being a practicing family physician to studying Catholic health care ethics to writing and teaching about all things Catholic. She is a fellow with Human Life International and regularly contributes to the HLI Truth & Charity Forum. She also writes a monthly column for Zenit.org. She and her husband John have been married for thirty years and have lived all over the United States, courtesy of John's Air Force career. They are now settled in the suburbs of Northern Virginia and blessed with four children and three grandchildren (so far).

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