Mathew’s gospel is filled with powerful imagery. A guiding star, wise strangers from a distant land searching for a new born king, an insecure king, craftily seeking the advice of his priests and scribes as to when and where such a king might be born. The wise men’s search ends at a simple home in Bethlehem where they find the child with his proud mother and father. They do him homage and offer their symbolic gifts. Then they go home, their mission fulfilled.
Someone described today’s Gospel as “complicated, mystical, political and familiar.” He goes on to say “Matthew is saying something very important about the universal implications of a very intimate reality. Jesus is born for more than Mary and Joseph. He is born to bring light and life to more than Judea and all of Israel. Jesus is born to bring light and life to all peoples.
We can find this wondrous truth better expressed in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he writes, “Surely you must have heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you… In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the spirit; that is, the gentiles have now become fellow heirs, members of the same body and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
Paul’s message echoes the imagery Matthew uses in today’s gospel to teach the truth that God’s love and friendship embraces all peoples of all lands. God’s love and acceptance moves beyond the narrow confines of one nation to all nations, beyond one people to all people.
In the past years we’ve seen too many examples of bigotry and narrow mindedness. We heard too many intense preachers claiming a special hold on God. Fanatical Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus want to wipe out those who don’t see things as they see them, don’t worship as they worship. No matter what their stripe they seek to make God as narrow minded as they are. Even within the different religions of the world there are those who see themselves as saved and their co-religionists as lost. There are those who see themselves as the ‘real’ believers, the faithful and true believers and they are willing to take the lives of men, women and children who differ from them. So we have suicide bombings at mosques, temples and churches.
This reality of our times is a repeat of what has happened time and time again in human history. It is a reality so far removed from the gospel of this feast, the epiphany of God’s all embracing love. As St. Peter said in the home of Cornelius, “the truth I have come to realize is this, that any person of any national who does what is right, is acceptable to God.”
On this feast of the all-embracing love of God we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we be blessed to love as God loves, accept as God accepts, and forgive as God forgives. We remember his words: as often as you do these things to one of least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do them to me.