On January 7, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, I celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Sunday also marked the beginning of National Migration Week and the occasion to reflect on the circumstances of migrants, including immigrants and refugees and others who live on the fringes of society. The prepared text of the homily I preached on that occasion is included below.
“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines upon you” (Is 60:1)! What a beautiful feast. In these days of lingering darkness and frigid weather, the readings today fill me with joy and hope. The light of the star leading the magi to the child fulfills Isaiah’s announcement of a future light that dispels the darkness of sin.
Today’s Gospel scene is familiar. Let’s pause for a moment and, with eyes of faith, see the three magi in search of the newborn king of the Jews, an inquisitive Herod threatened by the birth of a child, the magi finding the child with His mother and offering Him homage and a dream warning the magi to return home by a different route.
Matthew’s Gospel often highlights the stranger, the outsider, and the person on the fringes who is often ignored and from whom not much is expected. The magi were outsiders, strangers to the Jewish faith and tradition. Yet, it is they who diligently search for the newborn king and upon finding Him “prostrate themselves and offer him homage” (Mt 2:11).
In his message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Francis speaks about the wisdom of faith that “fosters a contemplative gaze that recognizes that all of us ‘belong to one family, migrants and the local populations that welcome them….’” Paul tells us in the second reading that these outsiders to the Jewish faith, the Gentiles — are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph 3:6). Christ was born for all of us! No one is an outsider in God’s family. The words of a familiar Christmas hymn express this so well. “As we journey to the stable like the wise-men long ago, we are hoping to discover what these pilgrims came to know. All are welcome at this manger, king and shepherd, friend and stranger. Christ the babe is Lord of all” (Infant Holy).
Today we begin the celebration of National Migration Week — an opportunity to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children and victims of human trafficking. In keeping with Pope Francis’ Share the Journey initiative, we call to mind especially the plight of refugees and migrants some of whom have found a home in our diocese.
Pope Francis often speaks about a culture of encounter that reaches out to others, especially the marginalized. This reaching out means seeing the others through the eyes of faith rather than turning a blind eye to them. “Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by, but to stop. And don’t say ‘what a shame, poor people,’ but allow ourselves to be moved by pity” (August 31, 2017).
We might ask ourselves how we welcome the poor, the marginalized, the refugee and immigrant. How do we welcome the outsiders in our midst? Do we see them as human beings made in God’s image and likeness? What efforts do we make to include them in our communities and in our parishes? When we turn a contemplative gaze to migrants and refugees, “we discover that they do not arrive empty-handed. They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them” (Pope Francis, Message on World Day of Peace, 2018).
Every feast calls us to live the mystery it proclaims. The magi returned to their own country and I think we can accurately say they became guiding stars for others. They shared their experience of the search for and finding of the newborn king. As we celebrate the Epiphany and the beginning of National Migration Week, may we look at no one as an outsider but embrace all as persons created in God’s image and likeness. Although there are many journeys, we are one family.
Quoting Pope Francis, “May the Church be the place of God’s mercy and hope, where all feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good of the Gospel. And to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged, the Church must be with doors wide open so that all may enter. And we must go out through these doors and proclaim the Gospel” (365 Daily Meditations with Pope Francis, January 7).
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.