[COLUMN] On following the footsteps of the three Magi

I couldn’t help but think and be grateful for the abundant grace that was bestowed upon our parish during our Advent and Christmas liturgies last week. It was a remarkable sight to witness a packed and vibrant church, brimming with faith and joy! Every pastor who witnesses such a demonstration of faith among their flock would feel elated, rewarded, proud, fulfilled, and excited. They would undoubtedly say, “At long last, thanks be to God, we’re finally back to normal after the pandemic.”

While some may argue that this scenario is common and expected during Christmas, with many attending Mass only on Christmas, Easter, and other holidays, I, as a pastor, am tremendously delighted by the significant number of attendees. All is not lost, particularly in this present age when surveys indicate a decline in church attendance. We are still finding people who have never forsaken their faith. And for those who occasionally attend Mass, who knows if our Christmas liturgies might have rekindled their faith and inspired them to engage more actively with the church again?

As I have mentioned in my homilies, I am not a   pastor who loses hope in our people or dwells on alarming surveys regarding faith and church involvement. I firmly believe in taking a proactive approach to our church. We will do everything possible to ensure our parish is vibrant and alive in faith. I believe that we are making progress towards that goal.

With proactivity comes the essential virtue of hope. We cannot afford to lose hope for the Church, the world, and humanity. There is goodness and potential in every person, and we have a God who never abandons us. We will endure every pandemic,    persecution, and war. We can only achieve this by maintaining a strong faith in God and believing in the teachings and ways of Jesus Christ.

The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, which signifies the manifestation of our Lord to all peoples, conveys a profound message of hope. The journey undertaken by the three magi reflects their unwavering hope to encounter the Christ-Child, the Light of the world. Their success in this endeavor can be attributed to their perseverance, faith, and adherence to the guidance of the Star of Bethlehem. Additionally, it was the movement of the Holy   Spirit that directed them away from King Herod’s influence, ensuring they did not disclose the location of the Child Jesus.

In our own journeys of faith, as we strive to build and rebuild our faith and the Church, we will inevitably face obstacles and encounter individuals who may try to dissuade us from following Christ and His teachings. Similar to the three magi, it is crucial that we pray for the gifts of discernment and the power of the Holy Spirit to enlighten and empower us. We must not allow any secular forces to undermine our Christian faith. Instead, we should steadfastly embrace the path of love, mercy, forgiveness, faith, service, and hope, as these virtues have the power to conquer the darkness prevalent in our world.

The year 2024 poses various challenges within the realms of both the Church and politics. However, let us place our unwavering trust in the power of prayer. Together, let us implore God to bring about peace, unity, and justice for the world and all people.

Have a Blessed, Happy, and Prosperous New Year!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.


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