Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

One of the rules of interpretation for Scripture readings that helps us to understand perhaps more clearly what we have heard is that you should always consider the circumstances of the community for whom the writer is directing his message. In the case of the Gospel today, it helps us if we remember that first of all, this story about the Magi or the ones we call “the three kings” appears only in Matthew’s Gospel. The other three Gospels make no mention of it.

'ADORATION OF THE MAGI'Why would Matthew be concerned to bring this story forward? It’s because the people of that community were a Jewish community. This is the one community from which the four Gospels came that was a Jewish Christian community. They believed that you still had to become a Jew before you could become a Christian or a follower of Jesus. So Matthew is trying to get them to understand that, no, God came for all people, not just the Chosen people.

That, in fact, involved a huge dispute in the early church. It took quite a while for people to come to understand that the loving salvation of God is not for just a few, it’s for all. If you want to read more about it you can look in the Acts of the Apostles where this dispute that went on in the early church, that went on for a number of years with some insisting that you had to become a Jew, be circumcised before you could become a Christian, it was finally settled.

But at the point that Matthew is writing, it had not been settled and the people were still trying to demand that anyone who wanted to follow Jesus had first to be a Jew. If we remember the short passage from the letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells us, “This mystery was not made known to past generations, but only now. The mystery is this: That now the Gentiles (the non-Jews throughout the world) are coheirs, members of the same body, partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”

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