3 January 2021
Is 60:1-6 | Ps 72 | Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 | Mt 2:1-12
In most nativity scenes (especially older ones) the wise men are depicted as three kings: one European, one African, and one Asian. They are often, too, depicted as: one older, another middle-aged, and the third younger. Also, their posture tends to be posed in one of three moments of adoration: bowing, genuflecting, kneeling, or even lying prostrate. These details attempt to capture the deeper, spiritual meaning of this great feast. Jesus, the King of the Jews, is also the Savior of the World. He comes to save all people, no matter their race, no matter their family’s religion, no matter their ethnic background, no matter their language. There is no one whom God does not love, no one who is not made in His image and likeness, and no one who cannot be saved.
Racism has been a painful issue for all societies. Over the past few years, we have become acutely aware of how little progress we have made in combating it. This feast day is an opportunity for us to reflect on how we are all brothers and sisters, members of one human family, called to care for each other in love.
This unity of the whole human race is based on our creation by a loving God. Throughout history, the Catholic Church has always taught that no race is inferior to another. Even when slavery was tolerated, bishops always taught that it was wrong to believe that God created some people inferior to others because of the color of their skin or their ethnic background. That truth comes from the fact that we all have a common ancestry through our first parents, Adam and Eve. If we all descend from those first ancestors, then we are all brothers and sisters. Our rejection of racism comes from the fact that each human being is created in the image and likeness of God. That gives each of us a dignity that no other creature in the universe has.
The dignity of each and every human being comes from one other fact: that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us all. No one is excluded from this universal mission of Jesus Christ to save the world. And he established his Church to go out to all the world, to every creature, to every man, woman, and child, with the good news that he died to save them. He wants us to make the world one human family united in a faith which transcends every race, nation, language, culture, and way of life. We are all called to be one in Jesus Christ, and on this great day, he is revealed to be the Light of the World.
The prophet Isaiah speaks beautifully about this in today’s first reading. He describes a great light which is the glory of the Lord shining over Jerusalem. By that light, the other nations of the world emerge from the darkness that covers them. Jesus Christ is that Light, made manifest first to the people of Israel, which then spread out to scatter the darkness of the whole world. Only in Jesus Christ do we find the fulfillment of all our desires for justice and peace. Only in Jesus Christ can we bring all the world’s peoples into one family of love. Only in Jesus Christ can we find salvation.
It is true that there are smaller lights that can lead us, just as the Star of Bethlehem lead the wise men. We can follow the light of our human reason and the light of our conscience. However, they are only smaller lights. They are dim in comparison to the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, just as the Star of Bethlehem was dim before the brilliance of the Baby Jesus.
That is why, throughout the centuries, men and women of faith have risked their lives to bring the good news of Jesus’ love to all parts of the world. It was to share this light with others so that they too could know the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ.
At our baptisms, we were given a candle which was lit from the Easter candle. This light represented the new life we received through Him. Our parents and godparents were told to keep this light burning brightly. We were given that light to share with others. Together, we are called to bring the Light of Christ to the World, to scatter the darkness of ignorance, and to unite all peoples in love and faith.
When we eat at a good restaurant or watch an entertaining movie, aren’t we quick to tell our friends about it? When we hear a good song, don’t we want to share it with others? We should be just as eager to share our faith in Jesus with others. It is only when we Christians tell others about Jesus with as much enthusiasm as we do about other things that this world will finally know the peace it desires.