Matthew 2:2-3
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
There are two points to make in this short excerpt from the Gospel. The first is about the Magi. The second is the reaction of those people who were in power.
Everyone is called to become like the Magi. That is why God called them from the corners of the earth to find and worship, or give homage, this newborn King. They were only the first. But they show the way for all of us to learn of the holiness of God.
They learned about his coming by noticing the things around them. This means that, as St. Paul said in one place in the letter to the Romans, no one has an excuse for not understanding who God is because he has revealed himself first of all in nature. Then, of course he chose to reveal himself through Jesus. This revelation is our faith. The Magi coming to him revealed that all the world is invited to him to understand and accept the mission of Jesus.
Friday we had the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. It is a name that some despise here on earth; that some worship and love here on earth. It is a name that is a torture even to hear in hell. It is a name that is worshiped with joy and love in heaven.
The Magi did not come knowing the name of Jesus, or the power that resides there. But they knew something marvelous was happening. They could not stay away. Everyone is affected by who Jesus is. But, regardless of how many of the Magi there were, and tradition says there were three, they only represent a minor percent of the world’s population.
This reminds me again of Jesus’ comments in regards to the two roads: the road to hell is wide and smooth and many there are who find it; the road to heaven is narrow and rough and few there are who find it.
Yes, that means, in my opinion, that there will be more human beings in hell then there will be in heaven. Red flag. That is my opinion. But I do think I am reading Jesus’ comments correctly. These people that try to pass off the idea that because God is a merciful God he would never condemn anyone permanently to hell are deceived, and are deceivers. Run from anyone who says that.
As the second part of the quote from Matthew today talks about King Herod and all Jerusalem being “greatly troubled”, this brings up two points more. First, a reference back to my previous comment. “All Jerusalem” is a deliberate overstatement. However, many there are who will not find their way to heaven. Many were, are, and will be “greatly troubled” by the message of Jesus.
Second, there is no good way to try to fight against Jesus. He proved that when he rose from the dead! He took captivity captive, he destroyed death and the grave. Yes, I understand we still face these things, but they have no power over us, despite any evidence to the contrary!
Jesus terribly upset the status quo. The Church, in imitation of Her Founder, has been called to do the same. We became the status quo and held that position for centuries. But now, we no longer hold that position.
There are people that are as afraid of us as they were of Jesus. They try not to admit that, and call us the bigots, the problems, the ones that need to be dealt with. But that is the same way they treated Jesus. Pay attention to this: the world is afraid of us, and that is why they react the way they do. They do not claim they are afraid of us, but that is the reality, just as the devil is afraid of us. I am not saying they are the devil, but their fear is the same.
How much of a problem are we for the society around us? Do we see people like the Magi trying to draw near to the Church? Or do we see the majority of people being like Herod and the residents of Jerusalem?
We need to return to proclaiming the sacredness of the name of Jesus. Here is a challenge for you: the next time you hear someone using the name of Jesus irreverently, ask them a question: “what do you want to talk to him about?”
This may not win you friends, but it will make people think that the name of Jesus is more important than just… using it as a common word. Maybe they will come to be like the Magi who don’t understand, but are drawn to something clearly from God. Maybe they will be like Herod and angrily confront you. Maybe they’ll just walk away.
But, I return to St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “at the name of Jesus, every knee must bend, in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim, to the glory of God the Father, Jesus Christ is Lord.”
The Magi represent all the peoples of the earth. And, as St. Paul said in Ephesians this weekend, “… the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus …”
In yet another place, it is written, “there is no other name by which men can be saved” than by the name of Jesus.
The world may be “greatly troubled” by the message of Christ’s coming, and I refer to his second coming. But we must proclaim this for the praise, honor, and glory of God the Father.
I sang this song by Bill Gaither once before in a homily. And I would like to use it again as a prayer to close out this weekend’s comments.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; there’s just something about that name.
Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain;
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all Heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,
But there’s something about that name.
The Name… Jesus!