Saturday, April 19, 2014

powerful words

Homily
Easter
Christ the King Church Topeka
19/20 April 2014
Daily Readings
Audio

Jesus Christ is Risen!  He is truly Risen!  Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

Surprise!  Oh wait - you were probably expecting to hear those words today.  That's why you came, right?  To hear that Christ is truly Risen?  So you're probably not surprised. Still, how do these words hit you today?  Are they more true, more dramatic, more exciting, than anytime you have heard them before?  Better yet, are you ready to say them yourself more personally, and with more heartfelt meaning, than you have ever said them before.

If these words hit you this morning with any less intensity than that first proclamation to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, with any less force than the words that made Peter and John run to the tomb, then you might as well go home.  Really, I mean it.  If these words do not move you at all, and if you are not ready to repeat them with great intensity on Easter morning of all mornings, then we really are wasting out time.  For these words - Jesus Christ is truly Risen - are the most mysterious and dramatic and profound, and yes, TRUE - words that have ever been spoken or could ever be spoken in human history.  There is no middle ground with these words - I'm sorry, that's just the way it is.  Either these are the most important words in your life, or they are not.  Either these words are everything, or they are nonsense and are nothing.

Without these words - Jesus Christ is truly Risen - there is no point in our repeating the most profound words that Jesus Himself ever uttered - this is my body, this is my blood - because without the words of the Resurrection even the words of the Eucharist lose their meaning and lead us nowhere new.  Without the words of the Resurrection, even the most profound love the world has ever seen - the love manifested on the cross - ends up meaning nothing.  For without the Resurrection, even the most powerful love, the love of the cross, is powerless in the face of death.  Without the truth of the Resurrection, the Church cannot proclaim for certain that she has found and experienced a love that is stronger than death.

Thankfully, we do not have to generate the faith to say these words of Resurrection this morning out of nowhere.  Easter Sunday is the easiest day of the year to proclaim that the Resurrection of Jesus is the thing I most know to be true out of all the things I know to be true.  Nature herself sets the stage, as winter gives way to new life.  The Church provides the sights and sounds and smells in Her sacred liturgy to pave the way for the Easter proclamation.  And we profess not alone but with the whole Church throughout the world, led by the historical cloud of witnesses from the first apostles to  the latest martyr, all of whom professed the truth of the Resurrection to the point of death, so that this faith might reach use safely here in Topeka, Kansas on April 20th, 2014.  It is in this amazing context that we profess with all our hearts and minds and strength today the beautiful Easter proclamation - that Jesus Christ is truly Risen!

All of this support is great, but it does not make our proclamation this morning any less personal or risky.  For being a Christian is never to go with the flow.  We are pathetic beyond imagination if we only renew our baptismal promises this morning because everybody else is doing it.  For professing faith is never something small.  If the renewal of our baptismal promises today is no big deal, or is boring, than mercy we are doing it wrong - we are doing it all wrong!  Today's proclamation is not to simply show up and buy a ticket at the eternal life lottery - no today is about dramatically going against the flow, and to bet our entire life on the truth of the Resurrection.

For what we profess today is a faith that is exciting and dramatic - as is the paschal mystery of Christ - his suffering, death and Resurrection is the most intense human story ever told.  What we profess is a faith powerful enough to shake any person who has become anesthetized to Christianity.  For no proclamation, no words - have ever shake the history of the world like an earthquake, or so changed the dignity and destiny of man - no victory has even been won that possible compares - as the proclamation that Jesus Christ has defeated death itself - and is truly risen from the dead..  That proclamation can't be something that limps out of our Church on Easter Sunday . . if so, forget it - let's just all go home and eat Peeps!  No, the Easter proclamation of the Church has to be a proclamation impossible to ignore by those who think we are the weak ones who need a myth to cope with the reality of life and death.

Against anyone out there who might think the Christian proclamation of Easter is a myth for cowards or weak thinkers, we disciples of Jesus must be known as those who more radically and intensely and courageously are search for that love that conquers all things, even death itself.  That search for the deepest love that is the source of life led us first not to the empty tomb but to the cross, where perfect love is perfectly revealed.  On the cross we see a love that is ultimate truth and that casts out fear.  It is at the cross that with our Lord real Christians avoid nothing and fear nothing.

To be a Christian then must be the antithesis of being a naive coward, for the wisdom of the cross compels Christians to be soldiers who live the truth that suffering and death are not to be avoided, but are to be welcomed, redeemed, filled and conquered with love itself.  A true Christian then does not proclaim the Resurrection as a vain hope for the future, but as the real fruit of the cross that he has already begun to experience.  For we begin to live the truth of the Resurrection right now, whenever we dare to live the radical truth given by Jesus that whoever loses his life through love, saves it for eternal life.

So we gather to profess this faith in the Resurrection today not only because the faith has been passed down to us, not only because everyone else is doing it, but because we have actually tried being Christians, and have found the Resurrection to be true.  We are the most pathetic of people, and our faith is completely in vain, if the Resurrection is something that we have to pretend to be true, instead of something that I have discovered with great effort to be true.  Woe to us if we cannot profess our life getting bigger, and our growing younger, every time I lose myself in the adventure of following Christ through His suffering and death, to the glory of His Resurrection!

So I beg you this morning - don't say something pitiable with our profession of faith. Don't say something easy.  But with sharp minds, and pure hearts and courageous wills, let us say personally and together the most profound and dramatic and mysterious words that have ever been spoken, or that can ever be spoken.  Jesus Christ is truly Risen from the dead. Alleluia!  Alleluia!

Friday, April 18, 2014

kissing in Church

Homily
Good Friday of the Lord's Passion
Christ the King Catholic Church Topeka
18 April 2014
Daily Readings
Audio

Who knows the rules for kissing in Church?  Really, what are they?  I usually tell couples that I marry that they can't kiss without permission, and then if I let them kiss in the Church, they can kiss only one time!  No do-overs.  No second chances.  No matter how bad that first kiss in Church is, they only get one.  Admittedly, I can get kind of bossy when it comes to what happens in Church . . I can be a control freak.  The Church lets me be.  Sorry.

Maybe a lot of you kiss in Church.  People don't necessarily know the rules. We have the kiss of peace, or the exchange of peace, which can range from spouses and families kissing each other on the lips to a handshake to a grunt and a tiny wave, and everything in between.  Are you allowed to kiss in Church? Well usually we are to focus intensely on the love of God revealed in Jesus and give our attention and affection to God alone, and to each other only secondarily.  So there's no easy answer to this question. Some say you shouldn't kiss in Church - that's its a show of romantic love when we should focus on something deeper. Some people say priests, who would be expected to be the worst of kissers because of their lack of practice, should be the only ones allowed to kiss in Church.  The priest's kissing of the book of the Gospels and the altar are signs of where the devotion of all of the people should be - on word and sacrament.  Others aren't so careful or inhibited - some of you are not embarrassed to share the love of God right during the liturgy by kissing those they love.  It's ok either way.

Tonight however we come to deliver the most dramatic and unique kiss of the year.  Tonight we all kiss in Church, or all are invited to anyhow.  I think it's an amazing custom here in the United States, that the vast majority of you have come to kiss the cross directly with your lips.  Of course you are permitted to venerate the cross from your seat, or genuflect instead, or kiss your fingers and touch them to the cross - all of these are equally good and right forms of veneration of the cross.  But 99% of you will probably smack your lips right down on the most brutal instrument of torture ever invented - the crucifix.  We reserve our deepest sign of affection that we ever show in Church - a kiss - for the holy cross. We do not kiss any other religious object of devotion at any other time throughout the year.  Only once a year.  Only now.  Only the wood of the cross.

We do this for two reasons at least. First of all, the cross shows us that God himself knows the worst of the human experience, and has taken it to himself most perfectly on the cross.  God has joined himself to the most isolating of human experiences - suffering and death - and has filled it with his presence.  Suffering and death do not separate us from God or one another then - the emptiness of suffering and death have been filled by Love itself.  The cross tells us the one thing that we most all need to know and to hear and feel to have faith in God - that no matter what, no matter how bad it gets - we are not alone.  God is with us.  He will never abandon us.  The cross delivers this truth better than anything we can imagine.  For this reason we kiss the cross.

The second reason is a deeper, more theological reason.  It is precisely from the cross that God has decided to recreate the world. The cross which at first look appears as the victory of hatred and sin and death,  when transformed by love itself becomes the tree of eternal life.  Paradoxically, it is on the cross that Jesus hands over his original power to create everything out of nothing, to create life out of dust, a power that was his at the dawn of creation, so that he can once again create everything out of nothing, out of the nothingness of the cross.  Jesus trades his original right to create everything out of nothing by sharing a piece of himself, to assume the position of the cross, where he begins to create everything out of nothing by sharing all of himself.  The cross is our great object of devotion because it is there, and precisely there, and only there, that God completely empties himself, and thus it is precisely from the cross that the new creation, and the creation of a new kind of life, are born.

The second creation, begun from the tree of life that is the holy cross, is unfathomably greater than the first creation.  In the first creation of everything from nothing, a light was shared that could be touched by darkness.  A goodness was shared that could be touched by evil.  Happiness was shared that could be touched by sorrow and pain.  The breath of life was shared that could one day be conquered by death.

But beginning at the cross, darkness and evil and pain and death are conquered overwhelmingly by the love of Christ.  Using his power to lay down his life and take it up again - at the cross, Jesus again creates everything out of nothing.  But it's a different nothing.  Out of the nothing that is evil he creates everlasting goodness.  From the nothing of darkness he creates unquenchable light.  From the nothing of pain he creates irreducible joy.  From the nothing of death, he creates eternal life.

It is precisely at the cross, and nowhere else, that the only victory that matters - the only victory that never fades - is won.  That is why it is right for us to kiss the nothingness of the cross with the most passionate kiss of our entire year, of our entire lives.  For

the place our lips hit that is the location of the creation of everything that lasts forever.  The cross is not where life ends.  It is where life truly begins.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

only one Church need exist

Homily
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time C
Christ the King Topeka
9 February 2014
Daily Readings


Catholicism is dead in the water.  Christ the King, our parish, is dead in the water.  Don't get me wrong.   We're a nice Church . . it's just that nice doesn't cut it.  It never has.  It never will.   It's not that I'm discouraged or pessimistic.  I have nothing but hope and enthusiasm for where our parish is headed.  I love our Catholic tradition and the opportunity to bring Christ who I know to be the way, the truth and the life more tangibly and fruitfully into our world.  I know there are thousands of points of light in our parish and in our Church.  Pope Francis has been an amazing boost, for one.  Pope Francis shows us how to get bloody and dirty in the pursuit of holiness, so that the Church is known first and above all for her charity! I know I'm speaking in generalities, not in particulars.  But in general, the Church, and our parish, is treading water.  We're not declining, but we're not setting the world on fire either.

Jesus reminds his disciples in the sermon on the mount, however, that treading water is unacceptable.  Christians are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  Salt was used in Jesus' time to preserve what is good and to kill what was bad.  Salt has a great potency.  Light highlights what is good and exposes what is evil.  Light can be the most powerful of forces.  That is what Christians are supposed to be  - not weak, but potent.  Christians are to be salt and light.  They are to be nothing less.  Not relatively good compared to other people.  Not a nice part of the world.  No, Christians exist for one reason, and for one reason only - to serve and to save the world by being its salt and its light. If Christians are not showing the full flavor and beauty of what it means to be human, and are not co-redeeming the world by participating in divine life and love, then we should fold up our tents.

Our Church is supposed to be so much more than a nice gathering of nice people saying nice things and doing nice things for each other and for their community.  Nice is nice.  But being nice doesn't meet the standard of being salt and light.  Nice doesn't convert anyone.  You don't have to be a Christian to be a nice person . . there are plenty of good people who don't care to go to Church.  No, there is only one reason, and there can be only one reason to be a Christian . . and that is to become a saint.  The only reason to be a religious person is to make possible something new . .being a Christian must be entering into a great adventure of trying to become more, and do more, than was thought possible before.  If being Christian isn't about reaching new heights and exploding old categories of what it means to be a human person, than it's nothing more than anesthesia for the scared.

The Church then exists only to produce saints. It cannot be a holding pen for those who are superstitious or too afraid to live.  If that is what agnostics see in the Church, then why would they ever become Catholic? Agnostics don't care about the truth or the global or personal impact of religion, and if they have never met a saint, why should they?  Personally, I would rather see agnosticism grow than lukewarm Catholicism, because agnosticism holds out the challenge that unless you can show me that Jesus Christ has enlightened your mind and heart in incredible ways, and made the impossible possible, then I don't care.  Agnosticism challenges the Church to produce saints or to fold up her tents.  The growth of agnosticism could eventually be the foil for the renewal of the Church.

Just like athletes try to set new world records, and scientists never stop asking questions about the universe, and just as telling an engineer than he can't do something makes no impact on his desire to do it anyway, so also saints strive to do something in God, with God and for God, that has never been done before.  St. Paul says that saints take their cue from the cross of Jesus Christ.  Whenever the challenge comes that you don't have to be religious to be a good person, whenever you think that human reason can provide a better rationale for morality than religion, Christians look to the cross.

On the cross we see that even though God didn't need to create or love the world, and the world did not add one iota to his glory, that God created and loved anyway, loving to the point of forsaking Himself.  The cross shows that even though the redemption of one sinner added nothing to God's glory, still He redeemed us anyway.  The cross always speaks then to true freedom born from a transcendent and spiritual source, and to a goodness and love not imposed on us from below because of our nature, but a goodness and love from above toward which we strive and which makes new things possible.  Saints are holy not because they conform to the goodness that lies below us, but because they go far beyond a love that is reasonable, and lose themselves totally by striving in spiritual freedom for the goodness that lies beyond us. Saints conform their lives to the mystery of the cross, where the source of truth and goodness and love is perfectly revealed.

There is only one Church that deserves to exist.  That Church is an evangelizing Church - one that shows the world the new things that are possible through the transcendent and spiritual freedom and power and goodness and love of God working in us, and with us and through us.  We shouldn't expect to stay open, if we fail to become this Church here at Christ the King.  The only Church that should continue on is one that produces saints - those who aren't afraid to take Jesus at his word, to become the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Welcome CTK visitors!

Welcome CTK visitors!

Thanks for visiting our website - this is my blog where I post homilies and other news about the parish!  I sincerely pray that you will find the information you need on our website, and that you will feel welcome to be a part of our faith community if you are not already a member!  A special welcome to those of you who are interested in becoming Catholic!   I am excited about the opportunities for knowing Christ and for serving Him in our Topeka community.  Please contact me personally at frmitchel@gmail.com or at (913) 220-8809 if I can make your CTK experience better!  I'm happy to respond to your questions and feedback!

Welcome to all!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

core identity

Homily
Feast of the Presentation
1/2 February 2014
Christ the King Topeka
Daily Readings



So, who are you?  It's a simple question . . . but sometimes not simple to answer. In life sometimes the hardest thing is to keep simple things simple.  So who are you?  Do you have an identity statement?  If someone asked you to describe yourself, as simply and exactly as possible, what would you say?

In asking this question, I'm asking about your core identity.  I'm not asking about the peripherals - where you grew up, what you do for a living, what your hobbies are - etc. etc. etc.  These things are vitally important, but no, I'm not asking about those things.  I'm asking about your very core . . if you could describe who you are in one sentence, or even if a few words, what would you say?  Have you ever tried this?  My favorite identity statement of all time is the motto of the late and great John Paul II.  Talk about a guy who knew how to keep things simple . . who knew who he was at his core.  John Paul described himself in just three words.  Totus Tuus Mariae.  Totally yours Mary.  That was who John Paul was, plain and simple.  That was his life and his spirituality and his identity . . in all of his complexity as a person, he found a way to keep a simple question simple.  He could tell you who he was . .  distilled into three words.

I've tried to do this myself . .  though not as successfully as John Paul II.  It's been a good exercise.  My own identity statement has actually stayed pretty consistent over the last few years.  When people ask me who I am - who is Fr. Mitchel - I don't immediately go to my birthplace or family or education or profession or hobbies . .  although those are all significant parts of my life.  All of them are important.   But in simplicity, I just say this - I am a child of God loved by Christ where I could never love or change myself.  I could give a witness talk about how I came to this identity statement, and how hard it was to settle upon it.  Yet it's one I've stuck with for awhile, for many reasons.  That is who I am . . as simply as I can put it . .I am a child of God loved by Christ where I cannot love or change myself.  That's who I am before I'm a priest or a KU fan or a long homilist, or anything like that.

This identity that is still the core of who I am is an identity that I received 40 years ago in baptism.  My core identity was received on the day I was dedicated in the temple.  I've just now at 40 years old begun to understand what happened to me that day, and I am still growing in knowledge and in gratitude for the identity I received that day.  This year the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time is replaced by the Presentation of the Lord . . a nice surprise and privilege.  There are two traditional ends to the Christmas season - in the western Roman Catholic Church we end Christmas with the Baptism of the Lord, but in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches  Christmas lasts even longer, up until today's Feast of the Presentation.  In our tradition, we are baptized and presented to the Lord at the same time . . our baptism occurs not outside in a river like Jesus', but in the temple, where we are also dedicated.  On this occasion, we receive our deepest and most perfect identity as human persons.  We become children of God - we become those who as part of God's family in the Church are visited and known and loved by God.  The day of our baptism and presentation if it is anything is the most important day of our lives. It's either the most important or it's nothing . . baptism and presentation can't be something in between.  For on this day we make visible that we belong to God - we are consecrated to him, and most of all we proclaim that God delights in us his children.  He gets a kick out of us and the adventure of our lives, and takes an intense interest in the dignity and destiny of all his children.  So much did he love us that he sent his only begotten Son to share in everything that it means to be a human person, except sin.

The identity we received on the day of baptism and presentation is an identity that we more deeply understand as our resumes get longer and our human experiences multiply.  No matter where we go in life, and what choices we make, or what experiences come our way . . it all can be incorporated into this identity that we received in baptism.  There is room in this simple identity for every human experience . . it is the thing that as we say, is an indelible mark on the soul . . something given by God and received by us that cannot change.  We can either enter into the adventure of more deeply claiming and knowing this identity, or we can go away from it and try to become something else, but the identity itself never changes, and nothing can replace it or become more central to us.  There can never be anything more perfect or deep than belonging to God completely, and his invitation through his Son to belong to his eternal family.  That is why John Paul II's identity statement is so perfect . .Totus Tuus Mariae . . .it is about devotion and relationship and belonging . . to Christ through the intercession of his mother Mary.

Again, the identity we received in baptism is an identity that we are meant to more deeply understand and grow into, not something we move away from the further we are away from baptism.  Being baptized into Christ's death, and receiving a destiny to live with God in heaven where alone all of our desires might be fulfilled, frees us from resume building in this world, of having to earn being loved and noticed,  No, instead, we are able to focus instead on choosing death fearlessly before death chooses us, and to grow younger as we give our lives in this world away, entering into the transformation of death that leads to eternal life.  This dignity we claim in baptism thus leads into our mission in life.  Knowing who we are, and getting that right and keeping it right, shows us precisely what we are supposed to do with our lives.

Today we celebrate the Lord's entry into the temple.  This day is much more important than groundhog day or Super Bowl Sunday . . the Presentation of the Lord and his entry into his temple reminds us that it is in our churches, filled with the presence of the Lord, that we are to reclaim our true identity through an encounter with the living God.  Today we bless the candles that will be used throughout the year to remind us when we come into Church that this is a living temple - our Church houses the presence of the Lord, especially and most perfectly in the sacrament of the Eucharist, and it is in our churches where the Lord promised to be most consistently and perfectly present until he comes again in glory!  When asked our favorite places to visit in the whole world, our temple, our parish church, should always be at the top of the list.  We should be visiting our churches as often as possible, dropping by here and in our adoration chapel throughout the week, to reclaim as much as possible the dignity that we first received here at our baptism and presentation.  It is especially here that we come to meditate upon the central question we must all answer - who am I?  It is here that we first received, and will continue to receive, our core identity.  Amen.




Saturday, January 25, 2014

wisdom of the cross

Homily
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Christ the King Catholic Church Topeka
25/26 January 2014
Beginning of Catholic Schools Week
Daily Readings


As we enter into Catholic schools week, I want to begin this very brief homily by expressing my deep admiration and appreciation for our Catholic school.  Although I didn't have a chance to go to Catholic school myself, and I have an equally deep appreciation for those who work in religious education, I've always dreamed of being a pastor with a Catholic school.  And here at CTK I hit the jackpot.  This parish supports this school so generously and sacrificially, and I so enjoy being part of the formation and life of the school.  I get to teach in the classrooms, celebrate Mass, hit recess, and observe how hard the administration and faculty and staff work to bring the Catholic faith to our kids and to make our school excellent in every way.  Catholic schools in many ways try to do the impossible . . with limited resources to be excellent in every way.  And they pull it off!  It's the story of our Catholic faith . . start with a little, and with faith in God is grows into something beautiful and tremendous.  My deepest gratitude for each of you who make our Catholic school so great, as the primary ministry our parish provides to our families and our community!  Thanks to all of you as we enter into Catholic schools week together!

Tonight's scriptures give us a couple of quick examples of things we are able to teach our kids in a Catholic school environment.  First of all we are able to teach that Christ is the source of all knowledge, and that knowledge reaches its highest point in the sign of the cross.  St. Paul says that the cross of Christ should never be emptied of its meaning.  The crucifixes that hang in our classrooms are better educational aids, then, than the ipads we just got for our kids, and impart greater knowledge than the smartphones we all use.  The cross teaches us that no matter how smart we think we are, and yes, I was at the geography bee a couple weeks ago and our kids are super smart - still, the cross teaches us that the most important lesson to learn in life is how to give ourselves away in love.  The cross teaches us that pain and suffering, failure and rejection, vulnerability and persecution are not things we have to avoid in order to be happy. No, they are human experiences that can be transcended and conquered by love.  A Christian then learns how to give his life away in love completely before death and darkness ever can conquer us.  This is the wisdom that lies at the heart of our Catholic faith, and is on display in our Catholic school.

Then there is the calling of Peter and Andrew, James and John.  Specifically, we are able to teach in a Catholic school that each one of us is known and loved and called by God.  This is the dignity and destiny of every person God created, and we are able to celebrate that without apology.  Like Zebedee, our parents entrust the calling of their kids to a holy vocation, and a beautiful way of making Jesus's truth and love present in the world, to the Church and the school.  We set the stage where our kids can know the voice of Jesus from the inside out, and he might call each of them to a life that may not be successful on the world's terms, but to a life that is so much bigger, and happier and more fruitful than any life they would choose for themselves.  Our kids are able every day to enter into that adventure of discovering God's will in their lives, and again, we are able to do that without equivocation or apology, but with greater fervor and joy!

Today's video will give you a peak into our Catholic school - again, my thanks to Mrs. Reynoso and the incredible faculty and staff here, and to the parents and parishioners of CTK, for their support of the school!  A blessed Catholic schools week to all!


Saturday, January 4, 2014

wise men seek Him

Homily
Solemnity of the Epiphany
5 January 2013
Christ the King Church Topeka
Daily Readings


The Catholic Church embraces science.  Maybe you've heard differently, but it's not true.  Today's feast of the Epiphany tells the story of wise men whose fascination with science, and their study of the heavens, led them to the ultimate source of wisdom and truth, to Jesus Christ our Lord.  In our Catholic tradition the relationship and interplay between faith and science is welcomed and celebrated, and is critical in the search for truth.  This search for a unified truth is  perhaps never more beautifully on display than in the story of the magi.  The Catholic Church was the founder of the modern western University.  The word university implies that there is a community of learners working toward the truth not in a fragmented way, but in a unified way  It makes little sense for any university, be it KU, K-State, Benedictine or Notre Dame, to house a religion and a physics department, without getting the relationship and conversation right between the two.  The magi show us exactly how to get it right.

Despite what many atheists might want you to believe, the Church has never been against science, and has never advocated a divorce between faith and reason.  Of course the Church is at her best not doing science, but in understanding the revelation of God, so occasionally the Church and science have a hard time getting on the same page.  But never listen to anyone who says that since the Church excommunicated Galileo, it proves that the Church is trying to keep science down.  Such difficulties are the exception, not the rule.  Name me a Catholic university or school that does not have a robust science department.  Of course, they all do.  There is no divorce.  What is the rule, actually, is that Catholic thinkers have made some of the greatest advances in science.  The founder of modern genetics, which paved the way for Darwinist thinking, was a Catholic priest  The original proponent of the Big Bang theory, was a devout Catholic priest.  Our last two popes, John Paul and Benedict, have written the most beautiful and fruitful reflections that are out there on the interplay between faith and reason.  Anyone who thinks the Catholic Church is the enemy of science has their head in the sand.

On Epiphany we celebrate that the magi who came to the manger were the smartest men of their time.  They understood something that modern atheists and materialist scientists do not get; namely, that the science of our universe derives its efficacy from a theological worldview.  Specifically, it only makes sense to do science if two things are true - if the world is not divine and if it is intelligible.  Science needs these truth to operate, but cannot prove them itself.  Theology, a reflection of God's revelation of himself, and hence the ultimate science, delivers these truths that are necessary for science to operate.  Without a theological foundation, science is a circular and futile exercise of matter and energy randomly encountering matter and energy, for no purpose.  It is only because of science's grounding in theology and metaphysics that science can and does discover truth, and make real and important distinctions between what is real and necessary, and what is not.  The magi were smart because they were so open to this theological worldview.

The magi were smart for another reason.  They realized that the most important knowledge one can obtain is knowledge that enhances what it means to be a person.  Knowledge of stars is great, but knowledge of the ones trying to understand the stars, knowledge of human persons themselves, is the best kind of knowledge.  The mere possibility that the one controlling the heavens could have a human face made the magi run in haste.  That the most powerful force in the universe was also powerful enough to allow himself to enter into the vulnerabilities contingencies of time, space and the human condition, was a revelation worthy of their finest gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The magi represent the very best of mankind, those open to the light of any truth, scientific and theological, physical and metaphysical, that enhances an understanding of human personhood, human dignity and our ultimate destiny.

Science and theology both have a lot more work to do.  We need great minds in both.  There is still more about God and his universe that we don't understand, and there is no reason for faith and reason to fight, only room for us to stand in humble awe together at the mysteries of our God and his universe. The Church will continue to welcome the advances of science, and the search for truth, while at the same time doing what she alone does best - producing saints. Saints are those stars of humanity, who even without scientifically certain knowledge of who they are and where they came from and what they should do, still are able to emanate the personal transcendant love revealed in the face of the Christ child, which is the ground of all reality.  Long before faith and science finish their work, we all have to choose whether or not we will be saints, and whether we will fulfill our destiny revealed by Christ, to love one another as he has first loved us.  The Church is the place where we come to be made into saints.

Saints shine Christ's light powerfully into the world!  Epiphany is to Christmas what Pentecost is to Easter.  Namely, today's feast at the end of our Christmas celebration challenges us to shine the light of Christ revealed at Christmas into our world.  Specifically at Christmas, the appearance of the Christ child purifies the reason of the world, and challenges her to see and understand herself through the eyes of her most important resource, her children.  Where science has tilted the focus toward the ability of adults to control their own lives, the appearance of the Christ child challenges us never to run away from what makes us most human - authentic, natural, vulnerable, sacrificial and fruitful love.  The light of faith discourages our ever becoming like Herod - fearful, controlling and selfish - and challenges us all to remember where we came from, and to never stop being children.  This is the light of faith that is meant to go out from the Church at Christmas to every dark corner of our world, a light that teaches the world through Christ all it means to be a human person.

Anyone who thinks this poor, dark world needs the light of Christ any less today that she did 2000 years ago, is a fool indeed.  On Epiphany, we celebrate that anyone who seeks ultimate truth, may find it like the magi in the face of Christ.  Their example teaches us not simply to hold onto the past, but to welcome with joy and hope the scientific and theological wisdom of the future.  They give voice to the Church's proclamation each epiphany - that wise men still seek Him!  Amen.