I've always been slightly obsessed with perfection. In college, I would stay awake until the early morning, perfecting an essay. At home, I love when I can cross every. single. thing. off of my check list. But sometimes my perfectionism gets out of hand. Sometimes I love "perfection" so much that I become afraid of mistakes.
At church last weekend, I was reminded that the Epiphany was full of mistakes. Three men left their homeland, embarking on a journey that may have cost them their lives. They navigate by the stars, and finally end up in Jerusalem - but that's not where Christ is. Confused, they ask for directions from an impostor-king who wants to kill the baby they're searching for - literally the last possible person they should have asked for directions from.
Can you imagine them, in King Herod's palace? They're surrounded by chief priests and teachers of the law - men who've spent their whole life studying prophesies that tell of the coming Messiah. They listen to the prophesies, hearing:
"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel."
The priests and teachers know exactly where Christ is. But they aren't looking for Him. They're in Jerusalem, serving a false king, even though they know the true King of Kings is in Bethlehem. They're frozen in fear, stuck in their comfort zones.
The wise men are the ones who find Christ. They worship Him, bringing Him gifts, but also bringing Him their story of mistakes and failures.
While I strive to be like the wise-men, aware of my mistakes but still striving towards Christ, I sometimes fall short. I know that I've been in the shoes of the chief priests and teachers. Sometimes I'm so afraid of moving a step closer to Christ in my spiritual life because I'm afraid I'll fall. I'm afraid I'll fail. It's then that I need to remind myself that epiphanies are often full of mistakes. The road to sainthood is often walked by those who stumble.
As Catholics, we embrace the fact that we are made in the image of likeness of God - but that doesn't make us perfect. The older I've gotten, the more I've realized what a messy human I am. I let people down. I hurt those I love the most. I drag myself to confession because I've hurt the one who loves me the most.
Pope Benedict XVI said, "Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning. Holiness grows with capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness."
Our mess doesn't mean that we're not meant to worship Christ in Heaven. Our mistakes don't mean that sainthood isn't possible. But instead, as Christians, we're called to acknowledge our mistakes, and bring them to God. To have patience with ourselves, and to realize that we are more than the sum of our mistakes. And to rejoice over the fact that epiphanies are often full of mistakes.