Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Remember Luke’s story about the birth of Jesus. A slice of Luke’s nativity version described how God reached out to shepherds to announce the birth of the divine Son. "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them…" In Matthew’s Gospel today, God attracts the attention of astrologers by the movement of a star. "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem." Luke’s story reminds us that God’s kingdom included the Jewish poor, neglected and those who were not usually welcomed at the local synagogue or at the table where important decisions are decided. Matthew, in using a different story, reminds us that God’s kingdom includes within its boundaries those even who are outside my religion or my society or my culture. In God’s Kingdom, revealed by Jesus Christ, all people are included. All nations, according to Isaiah, will come "proclaiming the praises of the Lord."
Interestingly, Matthews says that the religious leaders of the time were not particularly aware of the significance of the birth of Jesus. Although they could tell King Herod that this Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, not that far from Jerusalem, no Jewish leader is found making his way to visit the Child. Herod takes more interest in the birth than the Jewish leaders; however, his concern had a sinister motivation. Herod wanted to get rid of a possible rival, who was referred to as a "king." This is all a sign that anticipates the rejection Jesus would experience from the Jewish and Roman leaders. The story of the itinerant astrologers finding the Christ child is also a precursor of the Gentiles embrace of the Way of Christ when St. Paul the Apostle begins his preaching ministry to the "outsiders."
Today’s readings are a reminder that God’s love is universal; there are no outsiders, no foreigners; no one is excluded from God’s Kingdom. We can all pray "Our Father" and claim the same inheritance. If God is Father/Mother of every single human person, then all people on this planet we call Earth are my brothers and sisters.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.