One of the best things about being a priest, especially when it snows likes this, is that late at night when I get into the parking lot, I have an entire parking lot in which to do “donuts”!
At my first assignment, I came in late one night and tore the whole parking lot up doing “donuts”. The maintenance man came in the next morning a little concerned trying to figure out who had vandalized the property. They followed the tracks all the way into the rectory garage. They figured out who it was.
I have always grown up with this sense of adventure. When I was young, we had four-wheelers, ATV’s, and dirt bikes. We used to drag ourselves behind the four-wheeler sledding in the winter. It was just awesome.
When I entered the seminary, I had the same personality. None of that stuff went away. I found myself doing these same kind of things in the seminary. We used to love sled riding. We had a big hill in the back of the seminary. I would always find a way to take it up another level after we had built a jump at the bottom. We just had a blast. One of the faculty members was the Dean of Disciplinary. He was the person who would correct you when you did something wrong. We got to be very close by the end of my time there! He really was a great priest and I’m sure now a very fine bishop. His name was Father Dave Walkowiak. Do any of you know him? Did he ever come out here and help out? Well, he is now a bishop. Father Dave Walkowiak was always a very serious, stern figure, especially until you got to know him. He came off as being very serious. Even his family would joke around with me about that. One day, Father Walkowiak caught me in the hallway. He pulled me aside and he said to me, “Michael, I have a question for you.” I said, “Okay.” I got nervous, and he said, “Are you a thrill seeker?” I looked at him and I thought, well, I love to sky dive, and I like adventure. I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Okay, noted.” Then he walked away. I didn’t know what that meant. I still don’t know what that means to this day. However, the question haunts me. “Are you a thrill seeker?” I believe the answer is “Yes.”
The real question we all have to ask ourselves is, “Are you a Christ seeker?” What I mean by that is “Being a thrill-seeker. When you do something, it is never enough.” You always want more. You always want to top it or take it to the next level. The same is true when you are a Christ-seeker. If you have ever had an experience of Christ, you want more.
Today we celebrate the Epiphany which is the most awesome feast of the Christ-seeker. The Wise Men, those Magi who were seeking and longing after the star, they did not even know for whom they were searching. They knew the prophets had told them there would be a king that would come from Bethlehem and that he would be great and he would take all the darkness away and bring the light into the world. These Magi, who were astrologists back in the day, were searching for a sign. They were seeking and as they were seeking and following the star, they were brought to Jerusalem the heartland of where Christ would be born. In Jerusalem where the Scribes, Pharisees, Jews, and all the people had been prophesying about Christ for thousands of years, they had no idea that Christ had been born. It did not even occur to them. When they went to Herod, who was in charge, Herod said, “Go to Bethlehem and when you find Him, let me know. I will do Him honor.” Herod clearly was not a Christ-seeker.
The Wise Men went to Bethlehem. The Magi went to Bethlehem. They discovered the Lord. They were so in awe that they prostrated themselves and bowed down in worship. Thankfully an angel came in a dream to them and told them to return another way. Herod discovered word had spread that there is another Christ. Herod became furious that he had missed it. He issued a command that all children two-year-old and under should be murdered. He had all these children slain. Herod and all the Jews missed it. They were not Christ-seekers. They were missing out on Jesus being born into the world. The reality is in 2000 years we are still sometimes missing out.
Christ, as we hear in The Gospel, came for all of us, for everyone. He came for the gentiles, the atheists, and the agnostics. He has come for all of us. We miss out when we are not Christ-seekers.
I invite you to ponder that question to yourself as we come to the end of this Christmas season. Have you had some kind of experience in your life that makes you want to yearn for more? If you have, are you still seeking? Are you still seeking with all of your heart? Because, ultimately, if we are not thrill seekers or Christ-seekers, we are going to lead very boring monotonous lives. If we are Christ-seekers, we are going to discover the more and more we experience Him, the more and more we are going to long for Him.
Just as the Magi followed the star that disappeared for a little while, the same is true for us. There may be times when we cannot see Him or hear Him. If we continue to yearn and we continue to search, the star will rise and lead us to Him.
I ask you that same question, “Are you a Christ seeker?”