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Changing Our Family’s Way

The wisdom of the Magi.
by Lisa M. Hendey | Source:
They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. (Matthew 2:11-12).

One of my spiritual resolutions for the new year is to be a more active listener when it comes time for Sunday's liturgy of the Word. Perhaps some of you are like me — I have the best of intentions. I prepare in advance by reading and meditating upon the Sunday gospel prior to attending Mass. Upon arriving at church on Sunday morning, I pray for a heart that will be open to hearing God's message for me and for my family. But more times than I'd care to admit, after listening to the Sunday Gospel being pronounced by my pastor or another parish priest, I find my mind wandering during the homily. Filled with thoughts of the week ahead, focused on the behavior of my children, or succumbing to distractions around me, I miss out on pearls of wisdom offered by priests who have spent time in study, preparation, and prayer. I've even walked out after mass at times completely unable to recall the homiletic message.

Auspiciously, my favorite homilist delivered a recent sermon on Matthew's account of the visit of the Magi to Jesus. When Monsignor Myron Cotta, Vicar General of the Diocese of Fresno, talks I pay attention. As per usual, Monsignor Cotta's comments on Sunday gave me pause to stop and apply the gospel message to my own life. I knew in advance that he would speak on the importance of Epiphany's theme of giving our lives as gifts to the Christ Child. But it was a small comment Monsignor Cotta made toward the end of his homily that has me thinking today. Had I not been in my new "active listener" mode, I likely would have missed it. Thankfully, I was taking notes and was actually fortunate to document his words.

The Magi, Monsignor Cotta shared, had just come from a tremendous encounter. He called theirs perhaps the "first pilgrimage", a face-to-face meeting with Jesus Christ, in the presence of Jesus' mother Mary. They were forever changed and were anxious to leave and return home, surely filled with zeal and ready to evangelize. And return home they did — but by a different route. Matthew's account states that, "they departed for their country by another way." They were forever changed — they couldn't go home the old way. They left by a new route.

Monsignor Cotta reminded us that we too have just had an encounter with Jesus Christ as we emerge from our Christmas season. "After a conversion of mind and heart, you will want to walk a different path, have different goals," he encouraged.

My family celebrated a wonderful Christmas this year. In the faces of my boys, growing into young men, I saw the spirit of love and giving that God shares with me unconditionally. As a family, we were moved to pray for peace in our world. Owing to the celebration of Christmas day on a Tuesday, our celebrations were largely centered on attendance at Church, with our spiritual community — our little part of the Body of Christ. We were kinder to one another than we usually are in day to day living, more patient, communicative, and loving. We took time together as a family to travel, to play, and to share meals. We encountered newborn baby Jesus in the crèche at church, and in our hearts at home. We were a changed family, renewed by the nativity of our Lord and refreshed by a break from the usual rat race.

School starts again soon, and we must emerge from our pilgrimage, our own encounter with Jesus during the Christmas season. We must return to our "country" — the work and school schedules that keep us a bit too busy. The question I ponder today, the challenge I give myself, is what way we will choose for our return. As a mother, it is a part of my vocation to lead my children along the path of their spiritual journey.

I desire to encourage them to journey with me along a new, enhanced route. Buoyed by love for Jesus Christ and by his commission to share his good news with others, we set out on the next phase of our journey. Like the Magi, we are changed, converted, and better for having spent time in his presence. Like them, I hope we as a family can choose a new way, a path that eventually leads us and those we love to life with him forever in heaven.

Lisa M. Hendey, wife and mother of two sons, is the webmaster of and the podcast host of

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