A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

How to deal with emigrants

In listening to or watching the news recently, we have been noticing that emigrants are major topics  of interest.  Many people, primarily from Middle Eastern and African countries, are being threatened by starvation and/or violence.  They want to go somewhere safe.  What to do?

The Gospel from the feast of the Epiphany offers a few reflective suggestions.  First, a relatively brief summary of the Gospel.  (Matthew 2:1-12)  Magi (astrologers) come from the East (a country “out there” somewhere) to honor the newborn king of the Jews, as they determined from the star which they followed.

When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, they asked the question as to where this child could  be found.  They were told “in Bethlehem.”  Meanwhile, King Herod, who didn’t like competition for his kingship, asked the Magi to tell him precisely where the child was when the found him.  His reason, of course, was to kill Jesus.

The star that the Magi followed showed them where the child was and they offered him very expensive gifts. The fact that outsiders, according to Matthew, were the first to honor who Jesus was, is  considered an “Epiphany.”  (The word means “manifestation”) Then, told in a dream to return home in another way, the Magi did so.

Having become aware of Herod’s plan to kill the child, the Holy Family fled to Egypt for fear of the child’s assassination.  In this flight into Egypt, the Holy Family became emigrants.

What is the Gospel telling us?  Basically, it is telling us that both the Magi and the Holy Family were emigrants.  The Magi left their country for religious reasons (to honor Jesus), and the Holy Family left to avoid assassination (the potential killing of Jesus).  In fact, these are two very important reasons that we have emigrants in this day and age.  The major question is and remains “How do I respond to these emigrants today?”

The basic response would be to examine myself by asking and reflecting on more serious questions.  For example:  Who is my “outsider”?  Is it the one who speaks a foreign language, is from a strange culture, has a different color of skin?  Or perhaps, what about the homeless person?

An even more fundamental  issue for serious reflection is that passage from Genesis (Genesis 1:27) which tells us the God created everybody in his image and likeness.  This means that everybody else in the world is either my brother or sister.  Now ask yourself how you would likely treat a family member.  In God’s family there are no “outsiders.”


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