Perhaps you remember some months ago — I think it was probably toward the end of the summer, when Pope Francis was reported as preaching in a homily at the daily Mass that he celebrates in that residence where he lives. He was reported as telling the people during that homily, “Atheists will go to heaven. Atheists will be saved,” and the people began to be a little bit disturbed. “Atheists? They don’t even believe in God, and you’re telling us they’ll go to heaven?” Francis said, “Yes, atheists will be saved. They will go to heaven.”
Now that probably disturbed some of those people, maybe disturbs us a little bit, too. Atheists going to heaven? Well, that would probably have been the reaction of people at the time when Matthew composed this Gospel for the Christian community of Jerusalem. It was about 30-40 years after Jesus had died and risen and gone to heaven. And at this point, Matthew was trying to get those Jewish people to understand that God came, Jesus came into our midst, not just for a chosen few, but to enter into the human race, to enter into human history, to become the savior of all.
And the people of the Jewish community probably were disturbed because the term Magi refers to people who were astrologers, star watchers, who even worshiped the stars and the planets, and they were thought to be condemned. Now here Matthew tells the story of these three people that come and they search out Jesus, bringing gifts for him, worship him, and return to their home country blessed.
And that must have been very disturbing, because the Jewish people at the time had thought, “We’re the chosen people. Gentiles have no chance.” But in that, Matthew tells this story in order for them, and for us, to be convinced that God came for all — not for a few, not for some, but God entered into our human history for all…