Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
Does today’s Gospel subvert Biblical norms? Wise men who aren’t Jews seek the newborn King of the Jews; the actual king kills infants rather than protect them. What is Matthew trying to tell us?
We call these wise men “kings”, though that’s not part of the Gospel. But they do act in a kingly manner, living the right relationship between God, creation and responsibilities. They are monarchs of their own lives.
Like Abraham, the root of Jesus’ ancestry according to Matthew’s Gospel, God confronts them in nature. Like David, the root of Jesus’ kingship in Matthew’s Gospel, to them the heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands.
Like Joseph, who communicates this ancestry to Jesus, they grasp that relationship involves obligations. Obligation is not sterile conformism but a living response to the wellbeing of the other. If they worship the Infant King they must avoid Herod.
Herod isn’t kingly; he may dominate the same territory as King David, but he tries to impose his identity on the territory and population that should be shaping who he is.
How different the newborn King whose domain will be revealed in the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. He will multiply loaves and fishes for the hungry, heal the infirm and forgive sins. He himself will be the palace where God dwells.
Today’s Gospel doesn’t subvert the scriptural tradition but reveals it in unexpected–but by no means unanticipated–ways. That’s the challenge of this season: not to confine God’s promises to my expectations.
Doesn’t our faith need to be like Matthew’s description? Aren’t our beliefs alien to the society we live in? Don’t we need to recover the beauty of obligation in relationships? Aren’t we challenged to dig into the tragedies and uncertainties around us, as they also surrounded the birth of Jesus, and discover there the self-effacing kingship, the touching vulnerability, the saving epiphany of God-with-us?