• Isaiah 60:1-6 • Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 • Matthew 2:1-12 • Epiphany C ‘13 •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 01.06.2013
Those in Matthew’s community were second generation Christians. This narrative does not contain historical facts but theological truths – that communities understanding of Christ.
Matthew’s community had strong Jewish roots. As the community grew it became increasingly gentile in composition. After they were expelled from the synagogue in the mid-80’s they wanted to maintain their Jewish roots. They also were determined to develop their identity as separate from Judaism. They found a helpful tool for both purposes in the Hebrew prophet Isaiah.
So we hear echoes of Isaiah in this narrative. It was Isaiah who initially wrote “Nations and kings all gather and come to you from afar.” “Caravans of camels shall fill you.” The narratives is a statement that the church is by nature meant to be universal and all-inclusive.
St. Paul wrote often of “the Mystery of Christ.” He wants us to understand that in Christ all the peoples of Earth are members of the same body. The story of the Magi is our story! All the peoples of Earth means everyone. Buddhists. Muslims. Hindus. Sikhs. Methodists. Baptists. Presbyterians. Pentecostals. Episcopalians. Roman Catholics. The rich. The poor. The sick. The healthy. The weak. The strong. Africans. Asians. Latinos. Americans.
The vision of Isaiah has not been realized and the process of our being gathered together as one body in Christ clearly is not near completion. Look and you see separation, alienation, prejudice, rejection, walls instead of bridges, and war not peace. The story of the Magi invites us to do all we can to embrace the vision of Isaiah, and to respect our diversity. The Magi narrative affirms that in Christ all peoples of Earth are called to be members of the same body – one in Christ.
The Catholic author Flannery O’Connor concludes her short story, “Revelation,” with an extraordinary vision. Mrs. Turpin is a bigoted woman in the south. Her husband’s name is ‘Claud.’ The vision occurred near the pig pen near her home. “Like monumental statue coming to life, Mrs. Turpin bent her head and gazed, as if through the very heart of mystery, down at the hogs in the pig pen … A red glow suffused them.
“She remained there with her head bent to them, until the sun slipped behind the tree line. At last she lifted her head. There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading into the descending dusk. A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire.
“Upon it a vast horde of souls were tumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right.
“She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable, as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.
“At length she got down and made her slow way to the house. In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up. But what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting ‘hallelujah’.”