‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
We hear now of the birth of the Anointed One (Messiah/Christ). The first to hear of this great news in the Gospel of Matthew are those who shouldn't: the magi. The Magi are pagans. They are astrologers. They are part of a group condemned in the Old Testament as those engaged in the occult. Yet these are the first to find out. God reaches out them where they are and gives them the opportunity of being transformed by the greatness of His love. God beckons and they come. Truth is revealed to them and they respond. From the first moments of the birth of the Messiah we are told that this saving message is meant for all humanity. This message was a message of hope bound in the love of a God that so desperately wants a relationship with us that He will send His Son among us to restore that relationship.He reaches out to these Magi, not by warnings of condemnation, but in the bearing of the Good News. Through their gifts they show that what has been revealed to them is a bit of who Jesus is to be: A priest (frankincense), a prophet (myrrh), and a king (gold). For Jesus to be able to do that for which He was sent, it is necessary He be all three: A king who guides us with the tenderness of the Good Shepherd, a prophet who announces the Gospel, and a priest who will offer Himself to restore a broken relationship between God and man.
Also in this story is a disturbing plot twist: those who should have been thrilled with the news of the birth of the Messiah are not. We hear all Jerusalem is troubled. We see Herod concerned. The chief priests and scribes say where it is to happen but we are given no record of their going. We know Herod will try to have the audacity to kill the Messiah. Their self interest prevent their knowing or believing. Those who should have believed didn't and those who shouldn't have did. Yet the message is made known to both and will continue to be so.
What do we take from this? The whole of our faith is built upon a longed for relationship. That relationship will call us to change, a change that may well not be welcome. We cannot allow the chance that we may be rejected in proclaiming God's desire for a relationship to deter us from that proclamation. We cannot allow the fear of necessary change for the better deter us from heeding the call to relationship. Finally, in making this proclamation ( a prophetic proclamation we are called to make by virtue that we share in the 3 fold ministry of Christ by virtue of our Baptism) we must meet people where they are at...not wait for them to get their acts together (whatever that means!) before it is 'safe' to proclaim. There are no groups we can write off or persecute. There is no person to whom the message of Christ can be kept from. We must approach with compassion, not judgment, not merely calling for conversion, but showing where God has already reached out to them.
Will all accept? No. We will never know who will ot will not accept if we treat our Church as a country club looking for the right members and who doesn't want the wrong ones. This Gospel passage reminds us that in God's eyes their are no membership requirements save one: a willingness to develop into the relationship He calls us into and allow that relationship to transform us into what is better.