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Hiking - a Life-long Adventure for Us, the Magi

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(01-04-09) I find that age, no less than youth, presents some wondrous opportunities in my life. . . In those superb words of the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that: "Age is opportunity no less than youth itself, but in another guise---and as the evening twilight fades away the sky is filled with stars invisible by day."

One of the several opportunities for renewal and refreshment opportunity - that I've found in my retirement years at Mount St. Mary's University is one that continues to keep me "young in heart." On a few Friday evenings each month. I invite a few collegians (usually boyfriend girlfriend combos) to my home for a light dinner followed by an opera on DVD. The door bell rings around 5:00. One of them might greet me: "Hi, Paul, is the pizza ready yet?" While we're dining and enjoying one another's company, we review a short simple outline of the opera that we hope to watch that evening. From my DVD collection I usually select a standard, popular opera -- one was filmed on location, rather than on stage. These students then take the risk of experiencing something new to them. They move beyond the usual way of looking at themselves and everything else-to that which is "beyond them." Their spirits begin to soar toward "something beyond." . . . really, toward the beautiful-which in their livelong journey - is one of the ways they can deepen as they move to the beauty who is God. How healthy It is, dear friends, to be on the move to that which is beyond us.

How important it is for us to realize that there's more to reality and to our lives, than what is before our eyes. In the familiar story of today's gospel these pilgrim strangers who brought gifts to Jesus-believed in "something beyond them"-in a world beyond this world. It was not the star itself that caused them to follow it. Rather It was their faith in the possibilities of a new world, perhaps a new humanity. They interrupted their routine, stopped what they had been doing, kissed their wives "Good-bye"-- I wonder what their wives thought - they took off from home and "hit the road" to risk something new. They were willing to let themselves be changed.

Their story, dear friends, is our story. . . .our journey to God Like them, we make our way through indifference-and sometimes opposition-until we find the One we are to worship. On our pilgrimage we are continually on the move - as are Frodo and Sam in Tolkien's masterful epic, "The Lord of the Rings." Through youthful strength and an ever growing maturity to the goal of our pilgrimage, God. God seems always to be a little beyond every place that we travel, but in his love for us he is the one who can really be found, heart to heart, by each one of our human hearts.

This "search for the beyond" characterizes every human being. Jewish pilgrims search for the Lord Adonai, Islamic pilgrims for Allah, you and I for the God of Jesus Christ. We remain vulnerable on our pilgrimage, but we allow our God to guide us through the dangers and delights that we face on our lifelong journey.

Our bags are packed with delight and perhaps with a sense of dread. After all the old and familiar is known, comfortable, safe and secure. The new is danger filled. We are grateful that that Jesus, our brother and our Lord, is with us. He is the One beyond us, and yet, mysteriously, the one with us. Yet I wonder: What should I pack on my journey? In the words of Edward Hays:

Comfortable change of clothes-nothing starched
Yes, I understand, and a change of shoes.
Comfortable hiking shoes for exploring with ease
The strange, unknown, wild lands ahead.
Yes, and also my dancing shoes so that with delight
I can celebrate the wedding feasts I come upon.
Yes, a sturdy oak, a staff of love upon which to lean
The older the oak, the stronger the staff.
Our dream-vision as my map, and the compass of prayer
When fog hides the stars or eclipses the sun.
Our medicine kit with patience tablets for delays.
Dried memories for snacks along the way
And bandages for a sprained spirit after a fall.

"Dear God of our departures and our homecomings, may we go forth with the adventure-hungry-heart of an explorer, the faith of people homeward bound to you and with you, our Beloved Companion."

Edward Hays

On our journey to you, O Beautiful God, we wonder at times how we can determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins. In our prayer to you we begin to learn that darkness ends and day begins when we look into the faces of all other human beings and recognize them as our brothers and sisters, companions on our pilgrimage.

Read other homilies by Father Paul