Immigration was an important issue in the recent presidential campaign. Our country is a nation of immigrants. If I asked those whose ancestors-or who themselves-had not come to the United States from afar, there would be very few if any standing. Many immigrants
have experienced an un-welcoming attitude on their arrival. Today’s feast and holy Scripture tell us some important things about how we should treat those who are different from ourselves.
God taught the Jewish people of the Old Testament to keep themselves away from gentiles. God’s people were not to be contaminated by contact with pagans who worshiped false gods and did not conduct their lives according to God’s laws. The early Christians were pious Jews. Very soon, however, they began to attract gentiles. This caused tension and resistance. God’s plan was to include everybody. St. Paul called this plan a mystery, a secret not revealed in previous generations. Unfortunately, this plan is still a secret for many today.
Both Old and New Testaments envision this plan. Isaiah paints a picture of caravans from all over the world coming to the city of Jerusalem, laden with tribute. Those who heard this message would have presumed that the newcomers would accept the Jewish faith and worship at
the Jerusalem Temple.
Matthew presents the Magi from the East as representatives of the whole world. They are searchers drawn by the light. Not in Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem is where their treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh are poured out before a king whose kingdom is not of this
world. Jesus Christ has come to save us all. His salvation does not have national, ethnic, economic, or cultural boundaries. He has broken down the barriers between Jew and gentile, slave and free, male and female, resident and immigrant. He comes to make the human family one again.
This “mystery made known by revelation” is not always received willingly. The Acts of the Apostles relates how the inclusion of the gentiles among the believers caused tensions. One group demanded that the newcomers had to become Jews before they could be Christians.
Experience, argument, discernment, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit eventually indicated that Jesus had established something new. All were welcome; no strings attached. One look at history or the contemporary scene makes it evident that God’s plan for the human race is far from fulfilled. We still exclude one another for many reasons. Religious people have separated from each other and even fought wars with each other.
Ethnic, national, and social groups are at odds. The haves scorn the have-nots. The ins look down upon the outs. The recent presidential race revealed that xenophobia is alive and well in the United States. Some people whose ancestors came to these shores seeking freedom to worship and to make a better life for themselves and their offspring want to shut the door to others who seek the same goals.
Acts of racial and religious vandalism still plague our communities. The child whom the Magi worshipped soon had to flee persecution. What is our attitude toward the thousands of exiles in similar circumstances?
Some words of Pope Francis may help us to answer this question. “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women, and men who leave or are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.” “The Church without frontiers, Mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place, or disposable.”
May our reflections on this feast of Revelation move us to accept God’s unity plan for the world, to celebrate it in this Eucharist, and make it a secret no longer.