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Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Mt. 2:1-12

Saint Matthew’s Gospel is the most distinctively Jewish of the four. More than the others it seeks to establish that Jesus is the true Messiah of the Jews.

At the beginning of his book is a genealogy that traces His ancestry from Abraham, to David, to Joseph, “the husband of Mary”. The list contains the names of some 40 men, all of them the ancestors of Jesus, and every one of them a Jew. After tracing His genealogy, he tells the story of His birth. Then follows a strange incident. Some foreigners from the East came to Bethlehem and worshipped this Jewish Messiah ...

That is today’s Gospel reading, and none of the other evangelists relate this episode. You would have thought that one of them might have included it in their Gospel, although differences between the four accounts are common. But why should it be Matthew, to present the Jewish Messiah to the Jews and wish to bring foreigners into the picture?

I think the answer must be that he wanted to tell His fellow Jews that Jesus, their Messiah, is not the exclusive possession of the Jews. Jesus does not belong to one nation, He belongs to the world. If that truth was needed to be known by the Jews in the first century, it is no less needed to be known by Christians in the twenty first century.

There is a dangerous tendency among different people to monopolise Christ and make Him the representative of their personal interests. Frequently this is done, strangely, out of a sense of devotion. He is ours and He is our ideal. If we are capitalists, we make Him a capitalist. If we are socialists, we make Him a socialist. If we have enemies, He is on our side and we forget that He not only loves us, but also our enemies. This misguided concept of devotion has produced tragic

consequences throughout history. Wars have been fought on both sides in the name of the Lord.

Jesus was a Jew. His birth fulfilled the Jewish hope for a Messiah. Matthew believed this and wanted others to know it, but a mystical star guided foreigners to Bethlehem. There they found the Child and bowed down to worship Him. Who were these strangers? No one knows.

The only thing we know is that they came from the East outside Israel. This happened to tell the world that this Jewish Messiah was bigger than the nation of Israel. He belonged to all nations and to all peoples. He was not the exclusive possession of the Jews then, any more than He is the exclusive possession of the Catholic or other Christian Churches now.

Our faith tells us that Jesus is not only a great Person, but He is God and the greatest Person who ever walked our Earth. He was born in a manger and died on a cross. He had no wealth and held no political position. All He had to influence the world was the quality of His own character. Yet He stands not only among the giants of history, but the greatest of them all. Almost a century ago, an American preacher said of Him, “Of all the armies that ever marched, of all the navies that ever sailed, and of all the parliaments that ever sat, not one has ever influenced the world like that one solitary Life.”

Jesus like other great personalities belongs to the world. Take people like Pasteur. He was a Frenchman, but because he was the father of medicine he belongs to the world. Then there is Ghandi. He was Hindu and an Indian. In his lifetime, he was claimed by most of the world great religions. A Christian called him a great Christian, a Buddhist a great Buddhist and a Moslem called him a great Moslem. Obviously Ghandi belongs to the world.

Recall to mind many of Jesus’ sayings and you will find that they are eternal. They apply to the lives of everyone. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself.” (Lk 10:27) “Treat others as you would have them treat you.” (Lk 6:31) “Whoever would be the greatest among you, must be your servant.” (Mt 20:25) This is just to mention a few. The things that He taught are so universally true that they can never be the private possession of any one nation nor even a Church. Jesus is like the sun. They both belong to everyone.

Today we can thank Matthew for proclaiming the fact that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, was announced to the rest of the world by a star which attracted worshippers from among the Gentiles and revealing, therefore, that He belongs not only to the Jews but to people everywhere. We are proud as Catholics to acknowledge and love Him as the Saviour of the whole world.

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