The Epiphany of our Lord – year B – 6th January 2024
Lectionary Readings: Is 60:1-6; Ps. 71(2):1-2. 7-8.10-13; Eph 3:2-3a. 5-6; Mt 2:1-12a
Theme: A subtle and perennial temptation to imitate Herod
The gospel of the Epiphany of the Lord tells us about the unprecedented image of God that we are called to touch. It is not a new God but it is a new way, a more universal way of talking about God. As the author of the Letter to the Ephesians reminds us, it can be summarized in this refrain: the unprecedented mystery of God – the Gentiles receive the same inheritance as the Jews, belong to the same body, and participate in the same promise in Jesus Christ.
The Letter to the Ephesians today reminds us, of the great news of Jesus. Jesus didn’t just come to our family. Jesus didn’t just come to our circle of acquaintances. Jesus didn’t just come to my parish, to my community. The birth of Jesus is a much more extensive truth, much greater, much more overflowing. Because Jesus came for everyone! That’s why it’s so beautiful in the nativity scene to have those who shouldn’t be there, who aren’t part of our family – the Magi. They are “others”, they are strangers, they are gentiles, they are pagans. They come from who knows where, they come looking for stars, groping in the dark night. Yet, for us, the representation of the nativity scene is also about counting on them, on the journey they take to meet Jesus.
What distinguishes Christianity is the person of Jesus: in the revelation that He is to us of God’s love, of God’s Salvation. Jesus does so by throwing open the doors, tearing down the borders, opening hearts to universality. So, Christmas for us is also this challenge – we, who experience Christmas in our families, do not forget that we belong to the great human family. We, who live the particular, let us not forget the universal. Let us not forget that Jesus was born in the cradle of Jewish civilization, but is given to all humanity. We, who are here, are seekers, we are lovers, we are pilgrims, but we don’t have God! God is a mystery, God is always the unknown. Often those who do not have this installation, this conformity, look at things with another depth, with another truth. They listen to the prophecies with ears younger than ours. Herod had the prophecies, but it is one thing to have the prophecies, another thing to live the prophecy. We have to ask ourselves if we are not like those who have the prophecies, the traditions, and the rites. We possess all of this, but it is not enough to possess; we must live, and we must be possessed by what we possess.
The Magi come asking questions. They dare to follow the prophecy. When they go to Bethlehem, Herod – interestingly – sends them ahead, and they go! As we open ourselves to the universality of the salvation of this Jewish Messiah, let us not forget Israel either. Herod is not the King of Israel, he was from Idumea in southern Judea. He will have the role that Pilate will have laterwith the pagans. In this Child we have the promised Messiah, who always arouses the absolute hostility of the kings of this world and provokes a deadly conflict. The enemies, represented here by Herod, unmask themselves, and reveal what they truly are: a deadly power. Herod’s sin is to refuse Israel’s election in order to desire to equal and replace himself with Israel’s election. Let us not commit the same sin: we Christians. In the face of all power, must accept that Israel will always be a witness to the election of God and Jesus confirms that the LORD of this world is God, for all Humanity.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Can we commit the same sin as the false king Herod?
Bibliography: God’s Unprecedented in: O INÉDITO DE DEUS – D. José Tolentino Mendonça | Paróquia do Campo Grande (igrejacampogrande.pt). LUSTIGER, Jean-Marie. La Promesse. Paris: Parole et Silence, 2002, p.50-52;
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Fernando Gross, Brasil, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2017-2019