St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church

30 Jones Hollow Road, Marlborough, CT 06447

Epiphany C22

The Infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke are vastly different. After the birth of Jesus, Luke presents the Holy Family being welcomed by shepherds, by faith-filled Simeon and Anna in the Temple, and returning to Nazareth, as a joyous celebration without any problems except for the episode when Jesus stayed in Jerusalem without telling Mary and Joseph or asking for their permission.

Matthew, on the other hand, is much darker in tone. The first to visit the Holy Family were magi who followed a star that announced an event of great importance, the birth of a king for the Jews. And so we began their journey with gifts fit for royalty. One problem though: they expected the new born king would be descended from a ruling monarch; and that was King Herod the Great. We’ve heard what that audience was like. Herod consulted with the chief priests and the scribes and he and the magi learned the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Herod asked them when they first saw the star[1] and told them to report back to him when they found the child; that way Herod knew about how old the child was and where to find him. The magi went on their way, once again followed the star, saw the child, did him homage, left their gifts, and departed for home by another way having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod. In Matthew’s version, people who were non-Jews were the first to visit and to believe while those who should have been overjoyed at news were not and didn’t bother to go with the magi to Bethlehem.[2]


There are many legends about the wise men that are not part of Matthew’s Gospel which we won’t talk about here because they not important to the rest of Matthew’s Gospel. Instead, I would like to concentrate on Herod. Like many with a strong will for power, Herod could not face the idea of losing it. In fact, three sons of Herod were eventually put to death, and previously he had killed his foreign wife to cement his power. And so, it wasn’t a surprise that Herod wanted to kill this threat, the child Jesus. Joseph was warned in a dream and took the child and Mary to Egypt to escape, being one of thousands of families to flee from danger and violence through the centuries right up to our time. Herod ordered all male children under two years old in Bethlehem and its vicinity to be killed.


Herod leads us to ask three questions: What is the hardest thing for you to give up? What do you treasure most? For both the previous two questions, what would you do to keep the status quo? 


[1] Their journey took some time; it was not by jet but by camels.

[2] They represented the nations.

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