Sunday, January 8, 2017

Foyle's War and the Feast of the Epiphany

 I can go for months without watching a  Netflix show, but when I finally do select a show, I usually binge--one episode after another, season after season. My most recent binge was 
"Foyle's War," a British program whose main character, "Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle," investigates crimes in England during the Second World War and in the immediate years following. Both as a detective, and later as a member of the secretive government Security Forces, Foyle rankles many of those with whom he comes in contact. His honesty, integrity, and prudence often make him a source of annoyance not only to criminals, but also to various government agents who attempt to interfere with his investigations. Despite the best efforts of many, Foyle .....foils......their schemes. He does this not by being rude or belligerent, but by being doggedly faithful to his mission and by placing the truth above personal interest. Foyle is a source of exasperation because he often forces others to come clean and to speak clearly when they would rather obfuscate matters.

Today, the Church celebrates the magnificent Solemnity of the Epiphany. It definitely is one of my favorite feasts of the liturgical year. There is something mysterious about these three Magi who follow a star in order to bring gifts to a newborn king. Indeed, like every episode of Foyle's War, these Magi are part of a great mystery, where not everything is clear. Throughout, however, they act with honesty, integrity, and prudence. No  matter the external pressures placed upon them, they remain faithful to their original mission. They show up at Herod's palace attempting to find the Truth. They follow every lead. They follow the star. They follow the instructions of the scholars. They are dogged in their determination to arrive at the Truth. They are honest. They are clear and open about what they are seeking. Herod, however, is deceptive and manipulative. Herod thinks he sees "the bigger picture." But Herod's view of reality is actually petty. His view is about preserving his status, his plans, and his power. He becomes so blinded by his rage that it leads him, not only to deceit and to trickery, but eventually to mass murder.  

In the end, as we all know, despite Herod's deceptions, the Magi do indeed discover the Child of Bethlehem.  St. Matthew tells us that "they opened their treasures before him." Again, the Magi are open and honest. They live their lives with integrity and clarity. There is something so refreshing about these men. In the midst of so much intrigue, deception, and violence, these men are unaffected. They know their mission and are faithful to it. 

Lastly, they are willing to accept the limits of their mission. When warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they simply "go home a different way." Their mission was not to fight with Herod. Their mission was to worship the Truth. In this, the Magi can teach us how to be prudent. Not every battle is ours. Sometimes, prudence demands that we simply go home a different way. Avoiding being entangled in every battle is not contrary to honesty and integrity. Herod did not "win" by the fact that the Magi went home a different way. In fact, by withdrawing from Herod's schemes completely, the Magi frustrated Herod's attempts to harm the Christ Child. 

Clear-talking, honesty, integrity, fidelity to the mission, and prudence are tremendous virtues that we can all afford to cultivate in our lives. Epiphany reminds us that we are part of the great Mystery of the Incarnation. Our mission is to allow others to enter into this Mystery and to be transformed by it. The manner in which we communicate can either be of service to this mission or it can hinder it. We honor the Magi today because they were faithful to the mission and they arrived at the heart of the Mystery. More importantly, by their clarity in speech, their integrity, honesty, fidelity to the mission, and by their prudence, the Magi opened this Mystery up to the whole world. Their manner of life--like the brightness of the star--led others to Christ. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle is a great character because the viewer always senses that Foyle's very first commitment is to make the truth known. As I celebrate the great Feast of the Epiphany today, I ask God to give me the graces necessary to live my life in such a manner that, like the Magi, I might not hide the face of Christ from others, but rather, I might make Him known. Perhaps we might all pray for such graces.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! I loved the series Foyle's War. Never thought of it in that way before. Thanks Father Barnes.