Just as the Star of Bethlehem pointed the way to Jesus during the Magis’ journey, many men and women in the Archdiocese of Washington point to Christ through their lives, said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, during a Jan. 8 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate conception, where he presented Manifesting the Kingdom Awards to 156 Catholics from D.C. area parishes, schools, and community organizations for their outstanding service.

“We individually and collectively are to be a light among the people that points to Christ and His grace,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “The light of Christ shines on our minds and hearts so the light of faith may be visible to us and through us.”

The Mass, held on the Feast of the Epiphany, was concelebrated by 40 priests, Washington Auxiliary Bishops Barry Knestout and Mario Dorsonville, and Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop-designate Mark Brennan.

The cardinal presented the Manifesting the Kingdom Awards to people who were nominated by their pastor, religious community, school, or other Catholic office for their exceptional service to the Church. Each pastor of the 139 parishes in the archdiocese nominated an individual or a couple from their parish. Cardinal Wuerl instituted the awards after he became archbishop of Washington in 2006, and this is the third time they have been presented.

Without the manifestation of the Star of Bethlehem to make the presence of Christ seen, Jesus could have gone through His whole time on earth without being recognized, Cardinal Wuerl said. In order for Jesus to be accepted into the world or into people’s lives, he first needs to be recognized, and in order to be recognized, he has to be manifested, Cardinal Wuerl explained.

“It is our job to show forth to the world the presence of the Lord Jesus,” he continued. “This manifestation takes place in so many ways, like all of the different constellations.”

The award recipients all serve the Church in a variety of ways. They teach, sing, drive buses, bring Communion to the homebound, and help with parish maintenance. They lead ministries such as food pantries, prayer lines, cultural groups, men’s groups, women’s groups, and healthcare services. But above all, “you offer your love for Christ and His Church,” Cardinal Wuerl told them.

Cardinal Wuerl, who was celebrating 31 years as a bishop that day, emphasized the impact that each individual can have, saying that in order to confirm the power of a single witness, all one needs to do is look at the example of Pope Francis.

“His joy has become a beacon brilliantly leading others to Christ and His Church,” Cardinal Wuerl said, adding that “there are many other lights found in this Basilica today” that act as “stars of the great constellation of the Church who brilliantly light the path to Christ.”

Cardinal Wuerl thanked the award recipients for their service and commitment to Jesus Christ, and at the conclusion of the Mass, presented each honoree with the Manifesting the Kingdom Award, shaking hands with people of all ages and ethnicities.

“Each of you…has offered your gifts, which are every bit as precious as gold, frankincense and myrrh,” the cardinal said.