In 1999 St. Pope John Paul II came to St. Louis, Missouri my hometown. I was in the Kiel Center with 22,000 teens and young adults for the youth prayer experience with St. JPII. It was awesome. One of the most incredible moments for the St. Louis young people was when the Pope suddenly appeared on the big screens. He was in the building! And then coming into the camera view was St. Louis Cardinal baseball player Mark McGwire. This was a bigger deal than you can imagine.
Let me explain. St. Louis is baseball crazy. (Partly because we don’t have anything else going for us.) In 1999 before all the performance enhancing drug controversies, Mark McGwire was a living legend. He was a big deal. Part of the stadium was named after him (Big Mac Land) and only recently has been renamed. When we saw the Pope and the Big Mac together on he big screens, if felt like our little St. Louis heads were going to explode.
Then Mark McGwire leaned over and kissed the Pope’s ring. With head lowered he waited for a blessing and humbly and simply thanked the Pope. It was amazing to see the biggest name, the most famous sports star, so humbled in the presence of St. John Paul II. Only later did I realize what Mark McGwire was doing was paying St. John Paul II homage.
In the gospel this Sunday we hear the familiar story of the three Magi traveling to see Jesus in the manger. They follow a star. They bring gifts. You know the drill.
But what amazed me when I re-read it this week is that they tell Herod that they are coming to give this new king homage. Herod asks them to tell him when they have found the new king so that he too can offer homage. Later when the wise men find Jesus, they do in fact offer him homage (and stuff).
The appropriate and good response to searching for and finding Jesus is to give him homage. This is what we were made to do – to offer Jesus homage. What does that mean for us. To give Jesus homage is to offer him some special honor in a public fashion. In other words, we humble ourselves before him and offer praise and honor in a place where others witness this action.
I think a lot of us offer Jesus our problems. We offer Jesus our needs. We offer Jesus our requests. We are private fans of Jesus. All of that is fine, but it isn’t doing Jesus homage.
This Christmas season our challenge is not just only be fans of Jesus, but to be followers. Our challenge is to offer Jesus special honor in a public manner. Let’s offer our newborn King homage.
Live It: Go to a local nativity scene (at your parish or otherwise) and offer Jesus some act of homage. Pray out loud to him, say a Glory Be, or some other act of praise and honor. Visit and offer Jesus homage.