“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Mt. 2:1-2)
As we know from listening to the story of the Magi every Christmas season, it was the star that led them to the Christ child. Saint Leo the Great, Pope from 440 – 461, said we should imitate the star of Bethlehem in guiding and leading people to Jesus.
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. 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. The following is a story of my friend, John, who did just that.
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 he 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 asked 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 and the example of John, have you led anyone to Jesus through conversation, prayers, and love?