Rev. Joel Rippinger, O.S.B. ’71 M.A.

This gospel and the feast of Epiphany are not intended to offer us figures to admire, but a journey to join. The Magi’s quest reveals the need for a guide and the discipline of discernment.

As someone who has taught adolescents for more than 40 years, I am struck by how important it is for students to have reliable guideposts as they make their way to spiritual and intellectual maturity.

The Magi realized that the star was their GPS. They needed it especially when their guidance system was “hacked” by Herod and his dark forces of envy and control.

They needed to discern the nature of the deceit and exploitation they encountered, elements that continue to assail today’s searchers. How stark is the contrast between the secret plots of Herod in his palace and the brightness of the star that shines for all to see on the way to Bethlehem.

I have learned a few saving lessons from the Magi and from generations of my students who have made a similar quest for truth. We need the comfort and diversity of fellow travelers to help keep us on course. And we need to discern between the sinful intent of figures like Herod, who hide behind secrecy and privilege, and the innocence of a Christ child, who offers himself in simple surroundings.

When we acquire that gift of discernment, we more readily do what the Magi did—we bow down and offer our gifts. In the flow of grace that comes from that encounter, we come to discern correctly the voice that guides us where we are meant to go.