As we know from listening to the story of the Magi every Christmas season, it was the star that guided and led the Magi to the Christ child.
Saint Leo the Great (Pope, 440 to 461) said we should imitate the star of Bethlehem in guiding and leading people to Jesus. How appropriate, following on our celebration of Christmas and the incarnation of God becoming one of us in the person of Jesus!
God calls us to be an extension of his incarnation – God’s presence in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
Just as God took on flesh and blood through the power of the Holy Spirit with the Virgin Mary, so too, he takes on flesh and blood in us through the power of Holy Spirit – in our baptism and as we continue to open the door of our hearts to Jesus. (Rev: 3:19-20)
God calls us to be his presence in the world and to bring that presence to the people in our lives — family, friends, colleagues and strangers. In leading people to Jesus, we tend to think that this has to happen from our words of persuasion, but most of the time it is our conduct that persuades more than our words.
John was a county prosecutor from Duluth, Minnesota. One of his early prosecutions involved a former high school friend, Jim. Over the next 26 years John would prosecute Jim a dozen times for theft-related crimes to support a chemical dependency. During the first few prosecutions John looked on Jim as just another hopeless criminal. Then John started praying for Jim.
In the last prosecution of Jim it was determined that he was terminally ill with sclerosis of the liver, and the judge assigned him to a hospice outside of prison. Jim requested his attorney to ask John to pray for him.
Over the next six months, John did more than just pray for Jim. He visited him two to three times a week at the hospice facility. They reminisced about growing up in the 1950s and talked about their favorite baseball teams. They also started reading the Bible together. That fall, Jim repented of his sins and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. He died in late November.
“Over those last six months I frequently called Jim ‘brother’ because we had become brothers in Christ,” said John. “Jim loved reading and praying the psalms. God used Jim to teach me about acceptance of suffering and perseverance, and he showed me that it’s never too late to say yes to the Lord, no matter what we have done in the past.”
John concludes, “Because God answers prayers, Jim said ‘yes’ to Christ before he died, and I know he is in paradise today – just like another thief who died on a cross next to Jesus 2000 years ago.”
Like the star of Bethlehem, John led Jim to Jesus through his visits, conversation, prayers and love. He was God’s presence to Jim.