We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.
Today’s Liturgical Note is the second in a series inspired by the Holy (not to be confused with “perfect”) Family. You can find out why I call them this by going to https://brucemauro1.blogspot.com. The key point of part one was that our families can be holy like Jesus, Mary and Joseph not because we’re perfect but because God is with us when we face life’s challenges. My proof-text is the story of Jesus lost in the Temple. The story tells us that Jesus’ knowledge of the scriptures impressed the chief priests and elders...
But his parents were not impressed; they were upset and hurt. His mother said, “Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you.” Luke 2:46-48
— The Message Catholic/Ecumenical Edition by Eugene Peterson, William Griffin
Today’s gospel is Matthew’s account of the Epiphany.
Pause for a second and reflect on what you remember of the story. Hint: It’s the one with the Wise Men who Matthew calls “Magi”.
The Magi travel from the east guided by the light of a rising star. When they find Jesus and Mary “they prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures (probably how they funded their journey) and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Do you remember the other part of the story? This other part is there; hidden in plain sight. You might say it is embedded like a foreshadowing at the end of a Star Wars Movie. Matthew introduces it innocuously, almost casually in the first part of the verse written at the top of this page.
The mage arrive in Jerusalem saying “Where is the newborn King of the Jews”
The significance of this line can be easily missed. It is the beginning of a conflict between kings: Jesus, the newborn King of the Jews and Herod, the current King of the Jews.
This Herod is sometimes referred to as “Herod the Great” because of the improvements he made to the Temple. (His son, Herod Antipus is the Jewish king at the time of the crucifixion.) Herod’s jealousy of the Christ-child was also great and his response equally as brutal. He called for the slaughter of all male children under 2 years of age in the vicinity of Bethlehem. (You can learn more by googling “Holy Innocents”).
Matthew tells us that two miraculous dreams keep the Christ-Child safe. In one the Magi are warned not to return to Herod. So they avoid Herod; returning home by a different route. In the other, Joseph is instructed to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt.
My take-away from this story is allegorical.
Herod stands for all the dangers that face our families and family members. These are the things that we as parents worry about. Some come from a world that can be a dangerous place. Some are created by our own human shortcomings and personal mistakes.
Yet in all of this God remains with us. God who sent his Son. God who IS the Son. God whose Holy Spirit comes to us in dreams both we are alseep as well as when we are awake and inspired.
Perhaps God is calling us to “take a different route” to avoid the Herods that attack and diminish the goodness in all of us.
Blessed to be in minstry at St. Mary’s.