The Gospel on Sunday, the feast of the Epiphany, broadened our perspective regarding the nativity. No longer a family or town event, (albeit involving Angels and God!), It now involves kings, people’s from afar and issues of national order and regime change. The new birth is about to provoke murder.
After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:
And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
for out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.
The goodness of God draws homage and love from the wise men but duplicity and vileness from Herod, and complicity from his counsellors.
The spiritual sicknesses recently numbered by Pope Francis are nothing new.
- What makes you susceptible to sickness of the spirit? And to which in particular?
- What helps you recover or keep healthy? And how do you know?
Photograph of Crib in Madrid. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.