The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
The Story of the Magi is so familiar to us, so beautifully portrayed in art, we may be lulled into thinking it is just a lovely scene in the Christmas narrative. Not so. In Matthew’s narrative it introduces crucial elements of the dynamic of salvation.
While Matthew has stressed in his opening chapter the Jewish background of Jesus, it is foreigners who are the first to worship. So early in the Gospel, Matthew foreshadows the final commission that Jesus will give to his followers: to go out to the world, to the foreigners and preach his good news.
The term ‘magi’ is difficult to translate as it brings together a number of elements. These people would have been experts in astronomy and astrology and probably priests in their own religion. In a sense they represent the best that human culture and reason can offer. They respond with curiosity to the star, come to Jerusalem, are guided by the knowledge from the Jewish prophets, then, finding the child, worship God-with-us, Immanuel. They show that our faith is not something that exists in a vacuum but rather that God works through nature and human endeavour, using them to bring us to the pinnacle of our desires, worship.
Herod was known as a vicious, violent and paranoid ruler. A saying of the time which entailed a clever play on the Greek words, said that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than his son. The innocent question of the Magi concerning the new-born King of the Jews provokes the evil response of Herod which will lead to the massacre of the Innocents, which occurs just after this Gospel reading. By this Matthew foreshadows the evil response to the goodness of Jesus that will ultimately lead to his death, under the title King of the Jews.