The Gospel reading today tells a tale of travelers and strangers in a strange land. We all know strangers are not to be trusted. And the idea of strangers coming to announce the overturn of the status quo and a new world order would cause King Herod and governing authorities great concern.
With present day news stories filled with fear and suspicion regarding refugees and unknown strangers plotting violence and destruction, this ancient story takes on new relevance for us today. The real questions in reflection upon the Gospel reading are, who is the stranger in the story? And who can be trusted? Although they are strangers, Herod does not seem to perceive the magi as a threat to his power. They appear to be equal in status to the Jewish King and have arrived using the proper channels and protocols. But their news alerts Herod to the presence of an unknown stranger in his land. Someone who has not sought his permission, and who may bring danger and instability to his Kingdom, is at large.
Often, fear takes hold when real threats of danger to our way of life and safety arise. We read and hear news announced daily about terrorism and violent extremists who may be living unannounced among us. And many, like Herod react out of fear, believing these threatening forces must be rooted out and eliminated, even if innocents are also taken in the process. But the Magi, perhaps because they have the luxury of seeing from a distance, see the bigger picture. They know in a world filled with danger, there is one among us who can lead us all to salvation. In their wisdom, they are able to recognize the face of God in a humble child and to reject the king who would do him harm. In their decision to follow the light and turn their backs on fear and violence, the trustworthy strangers allowed the path of salvation to remain open to us in the form of a poor, infant refugee.
Christ’s light and peace,