One of my mom’s favorite Christmas carols was “We Three Kings,” and partly for this reason this song has always spoken to me. What was it about the song the captivated her? I don’t know for sure, but maybe it was the rhythm that seems to magically capture the procession of the kings on their long journey. Their travels had to have been filled with a mix of curiosity, longing, excitement, and some uncertainty. And maybe that was the song’s appeal for her…that expectant longing, that need to draw nearer to the Lord. She certainly, in her everyday life, strove to do just that through her daily prayer. Prayer was a hallmark of her faith journey.
We’ve been encouraged for the past few weeks now to do just that…develop a stronger relationship with Jesus through prayer. With that can come many thoughts, similar to what the Magi may have experienced: What will this journey look like? What will I encounter? What challenges might I face? What will I be asked to do?
Yet, with any journey worth taking, we work through the struggles and anxieties and prepare to go. And, with the Lord, the first leg of the journey can be as rudimentary as getting to the front door! In his famous painting, “The Light of the World,” artist William Holman Hunt portrays Jesus knocking on a door, representing Revelations 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock…” The door Hunt depicts is somewhat overgrown with vines, but Jesus stands knocking anyway. Upon closer inspection of this painting, one will notice that there is no doorknob. Of course this is intentional: Jesus will never force His way in; rather he patiently waits until we open from the other side. We have the total control to invite Him in.
This realization was the start of my husband John’s faith journey, and a print of “The Light of the World” was therefore the present my children and I got him upon his Baptism a year and a half ago at the Easter Vigil in 2017. This simple portrayal of Jesus knocking was on his light switch as a young boy, and many years later was the epiphany for him when he was reminded of it during one of the Alpha videos that mentions Hunt’s painting. The knock from Jesus became real to him. John opened the door, learned more about Jesus and the faith at RCIA/Catholicism 101, and decided to become a member of the Catholic Church.
Recently, I had my own epiphanic moment: it was a simple reminder that the journey doesn’t stop with merely inviting Jesus in. During prayer, He invited me to exit the same door I had invited him through—with Him by my side. It was the start of a journey of trust in the Lord, where unlike the typical travel plan in which I would have all the stops and final destination carefully mapped and anticipated, this would be a walk into the unknown, just trusting and following God’s promptings and will for my life, not my own. I still find myself hesitant at times, but that’s when I know I need to turn to Him in prayer for re-direction and strength.
On their “journey of faith,” the Magi followed a star so many years ago and allowed themselves to “change course” after their encounter with the King, Jesus Emmanuel. I pray that we can do the same. No matter where you are on your faith journey, it’s about encountering and re-encountering, conversion and reconversion…and these encounters and reconversions are fueled by prayer. As Fr. Chas mentioned in a recent homily, prayer can change history–that encounter with Christ can alter the course of the future…yours and that of the world.
Pope Francis has said, “We will celebrate Christmas well if, like Joseph, we will give space to silence; if, like Mary, we say ‘here I am’ to God; if, like Jesus, we will be close to those who are alone; if, like the shepherds, we will leave our enclosures to be with Jesus.”
What’s the next step in your “faith journey?” Will you make that room for silence? Will you acknowledge God’s presence beside you, saying “here I am”? Will you reach out to others? Will you leave your “enclosure?” Will you keep traveling with Him, continually trusting in His plan? Jesus stands and knocks; receive His invitation and step out with Him.
“The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the Babe has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise human orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light might not only lead others but warm them as well.” –Neil Maxwell