The person most in the news this past week is a man named Umar Abdul Mutalab. He’s the man who tried to blow up a plane approaching Detroit. He is a Muslim from Nigeria who is supposed to have been trained in Yemen to be a suicide bomber.
I was talking with someone who couldn’t understand how some can kill themselves and others in the name of God. It really is hard to grasp such a mentality. But when we look at history we see that people have been killing others in God’s name for centuries. We just have to remember the Crusades or the wars of religion that plagued Europe for 100 years. People have always been willing to rid the world of the ‘infidel’ the non believer. Unfortunately we have to face the fact, ‘as it was in the beginning, in now and will be forever.’ Our history as Christians was often a far cry from the command of Jesus, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ So often we’ve seen ourselves as special and have little tolerance or respect for those different from ourselves, whether that difference be religious, racial, social status or life style.
The people of Israel had a long history of being a special people through the covenants, the pacts God made with them. I will be your God and you will be My people. The one God was sharing with this one nation information or revelation of Who this One God is. Through the years the Israelites has a deeper sense of their own image and the image of God for them. They kept themselves apart lest they be contaminated by any association with those different from themselves, lest they be tempted to go after strange gods and be found unfaithful to the One God.
In the first reading in today’s Mass Isaiah foretells the coming of a Messiah who will expand the goodness and closeness of God beyond the borders of Israel. The darkness of ignorance that covered the world will be shattered by the radiant light of this a wonderful truth that God’s love and life are for all people. God claims all people as special and as belonging to the One God, no matter how these people know God. At Bethlehem the angels announced good news for all people, all nations, for all will be blessed by the birth of this child.
This is the Epiphany the insight, the eye opener we are challenged to make our own, “that God has no favorites but that any person of any nationality, any faith that does what is right is acceptable to God.” In our second reading Paul shares with the Christians of Ephesus his own discovery that the Messiah and the life He offers is for all peoples, not just the Jewish nation – that people who were once seen as strangers – unworthy of God’s grace are invited into fellowship – Gentiles – the non Jews are fellow heirs, members of the same body and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus.
The wise men, the searchers in today’s gospel represent the gentiles, the peoples of every land and nation who are accepted by the Christ Child.
On a feast such as this we can pray for the day when the world will be safe from such people as Umar Abdul Mutalab – be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or any faith community. We pray that, beginning with ourselves as Christians, we will liberate ourselves from bigotry, prejudice, racism, intolerance of any form. We pray that we accept the wonder that any person, every person who does what is right is acceptable to God.