January 7, 2024 at Saint William And Saint Agnes Churches in Naples, FL
Isaiah 60: 1-6 + Psalm 72, + Ephesians 3: 2-3, 5-8 + Matthew 2: 1-12
We turn to Matthew’s Gospel today, and the whole of this Gospel is structured to illuminate the final command of Jesus and his final promise. “Go out to all the world and spread the Good News. Behold, I am with you until the end of the age.” Those who study Matthew’s Gospel know that he is not writing a history. The stories he tells are very simple and stark without a lot of details. He shows more interest in the star than in Mary and Joseph. Perhaps because a star is a light for all the whole world to see. Joseph is the chief human actor in the nativity story. The birth itself is mentioned only in passing. And with that, Matthew moves on to his vision of a universal all-embracing Kingdom of God.
It’s as though Matthew is writing a screen play, and so today we are still in Act One, but now at scene two. Scene One has two characters: Joseph and Mary. Scene Two as these foreigners and Herod. These visitors are sometimes called “wise.” They stand in stark contrast to Herod who lacks far more than wisdom. It would be hard to count his deficiencies, but courage and openness would be among them. It never ceases to amaze me every time I read this Gospel that Herod and his court did nothing even after his scholars told him what was happening. I don’t know about you, but when I think about this, it sounds like our days and the information we have about climate change. We know about it, but nothing much happens for the same reason.
Herod’s problem was simply that he was too comfortable, self-assured, and too confident in his own power to allow something new, a change, or even be aware of a power greater than his own. In contrast to these strangers we could call “seekers” he sought nothing and therefore he knew nothing. A theologian described people open to revelation this way: “The person who seeks is the person who knows.”
Herod knew nothing, and content to know nothing, he missed the revelation of Divine Presence and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Whereas these strangers were seekers, and because of that, they knew, they saw, they experienced an Epiphany – a Divine Revelation of God’s presence.
It does no good to hear or read this story without beginning to wonder about ourselves and what we know and how we know it. Disciples of Jesus Christ, true believers are always seeking, looking for signs and wonders of God’s presence and work among us. We can learn from Herod’s ignorance that unless we seek, open ourselves to what was before unknown and perhaps unlikely, we will never know anything about God much less come to see God. The world around us, the world in which we live, is often hostile to change, and it leads to a lot fear of the unknown. That fear and that hostility to allow something new is dangerous and becomes an obstacle to knowledge and the discovery of truth. We must be seekers. It will lead us to wisdom and knowledge. Those who are seeking may sometimes end up in the wrong places, but like these strangers, they can leave people like Herod to their own darkness and ignorance. It is always possible to reorient ourselves. Our journey will not end on this earth, but we cannot do better than spend our lifetime seeking.