sabato 6 gennaio 2018

«Procidentes adoraverunt eum»

What strikes more in today’s gospel is the different attitude of its characters towards Jesus. On the one hand, we see some wise men from the East looking for the king of the Jews. They come from afar; they belong to another people; they profess another religion. Why should they be concerned with the king of an alien and minor people without any connection with them? And yet, after seeing a star, they leave their country towards Judea; they undergo the discomforts of a long journey to pay homage to the king of the Jews and offer him their gifts.

On the other hand, we encounter the Jews, who get troubled when they learn of the birth of their king. It was ages that they were waiting for his coming; their Scriptures spoke of him. And now that someone tells them that he has been born, they are disturbed. And as if that was not enough, Herod, their incumbent puppet king, orders the massacre of all the male children in Bethlehem and its vicinity. Why? Evidently, he feels threatened by that Infant: he could oust him from his position of power; so, he must die.

This story teaches us that geographical closeness or ethnic and cultural affinity with Christ is not enough; affiliation is not a guarantee of salvation. One is not saved just because belongs to the people of Jesus. There is need of recognizing him and doing him homage. Scriptures can be a help; but they also are not enough. Herod does not even know what the Scriptures say about the Messiah. He has to ask the experts; and even when they tell him what is written about the Messiah, that is not enough. Indeed, he will use that information not to worship him, but to get rid of him. On the contrary, people who had nothing to do with the Jews, who did not know the Scriptures speaking of the Messiah, with no other guidance but a star, they look for the king of the Jews, they find him, they adore him: “They prostrated themselves and did him homage” (procidentes adoraverunt eum).

This story is a foretaste of what will happen at the end of Jesus’ earthly life: when the apostles start preaching the gospel, their announcement will be refused by the Jews and welcomed by pagans. Somehow, the Magi are the first fruits of the Gentiles who will recognize Christ as their Savior. This is the mystery of the Epiphany, of which Paul speaks in the second reading; the mystery hidden for ages and now revealed to us: “that the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” All without distinction are called to salvation. Salvation is a gift at everyone’s disposal. The only requirements are: to look for it and, once found, accept it.

The same story repeats itself over the centuries, up to the present day. It would seem that nowadays those near, those who belong to once-Christian nations, either ignore or fear or even refuse and oppose their King. At the same time, we see people coming from afar, who find in Christ their Savior, the fulfillment of their expectations. Jesus lets himself be found by those who look for him. Those who ignore him, he abandons them to self-indulgence, so that they may destroy themselves by their own hands. 

Let us imitate the Magi; let us set out in search of the king of the Jews; let us search his signs in the world and in the Scriptures; let us follow his star. And when we find him, let us prostrate ourselves before him, and let us adore him. He is our Lord, our Savior and King.