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January 2, 1998     The Message
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14 The Message.:-- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana The Visit of the Magi: Jesus is revealed to the Gentiles By FATHER DONALD DILGER Columnist Gospel Commentamd for January 4, 1998: Epiphany Of The Lord: Matthew 2:1-12 b The English word "epiphany" is derived from a Greek word meaning "manifestation, revelation, a making known." The Epiphany of Our Lord is there- fore his manifestation! This being revealed or made known. The story of the Epiphany is found only in Matthew. Let us begin by facing the fact that the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke were not written as children's stories, even though they are usually treated as such, due to the lack of under- standing of the type of ancient literature in which they are cast. They are adult literature of the most profound theological insights. They respond to a given situation in the life of the particular Christian community for which the author composed his gospel. In the case of the Epiphany, the best hypothesis is that Matthew was writing for the great cosmopoli- tan Christian Church at Antioch in Syria in the mid- eighties of the first century of the Christian era. His gospel indicates that he was writing for'a mixed community of Christians, a combination of converts from Judaism and from various pagan religions or Gentile (non-Jewish) background. It was a time when Christianity was withdrawing from its mother Judaism and functioning religiously in its own syna- gogues. During the fifties and sixties great battles were fought over the admission of Gentiles to an all- Jewish Christian community, and under what rules Gentiles were to be admitted. By the time Matthew wrote, the Church at Antioch is thought to have been composed of a majority of Gentiles and a minority of Jews. Still, there must have been an uneasy truce between Gentile and Jewish Christians. The later letters attributed to Paul bear witness to such an uneasiness. Were Jew and Gentile equal or were these [atecomers into God's family to be treat- ed as junior members of the Church? Matthew needed to respond to such a situation. He does so through his story of the visit of the Magi to the newborn King of the Jews, as Jesus is called in this story. Matthew had to demonstrate that Jesus is also King of the Nations or Gentiles. As the scribe or scholar he describes later in 13:52, (probably a self-description), he "brings out of his treasure both old and new." For the old treasure he turns to his Scriptures, our Old Testament. In the Book of Num- bers, chapters 22-24 he finds the story of Balaam, a "magus" (plural: magi or wiseman, who came from the East with his two servants and ultimately spoke a prophetic blessing upon God's people. Within that prophetic blessing are found these words: "... a star shall arise out of Jacob, and a scepter shall arise out of Israel .... "The words of Balaam, "star, scepter," refer to a King of the Jews In his scriptural house of treasures Matthew also knew of Isaiah 60:3, 6, which read: "And Gentiles shall come to your lights and kings in the brightness of your ris- ing .... They shall bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord." Psalm 72:10- 11 are also helpful: "May the kings.., render him tribute. May the kings bring him gifts. May all kings fall down before him, all Gentiles serve him!" All of these prophetic statements were spoken orig- inally of King David and/or his successors. First- century Christians, however, saw the ultimate ful- fillment of these prophetic words in Jesus, "Son of David," the ultimate king descended from David. Matthew now has gathered the major components of his theological lesson to be cast in the form of the Visit of the Magi story. The story is well-known and frequently enacted in children's Christmas pageants. For the most part that is as far as it goes, a children's Christmas story or play. This is not even close to Matthew's inten- tion and says nothing of the enclosed within Matthew's story. His follows. The star of the story is not the newborn king of the Jews, but also l natural revelation. St. Paul had taught tiles can come to the knowledge of observance of nature. Thus the Magi are right direction by the star. St. Paul, like tament Scriptures, taught that the revelation of nature was given to ..... Jews. The Magi, led by nature; i.e., the s Jerusalem toward full knowledge of tion. The Jewish scholars give by quoting from the prophet t resenting all Gentiles, accept this ceed to Bethlehem, offer their the "King Of the Jews." By the King of the Jews, Matthew King of the Gentiles, of all nations. acceptable to him as are those In story form Matthew ex ' ing in the Letter to the Ephesians, reading: "... the mystery made known revelation.., the mystery o known in earlier generations... are fellow-heirs (with the Jews), same body, and sharers of the 1: Jesus through the gospel." Thus with the tension between Jew and Christian community. For our time would teach gratitude toward J preservation and mediation c us, and that Jew and Christian are one in the Christian Church the Visit of the Magi teaches the e members regardless of race, gender, or gin. This is not a children s Christmas a catechism! .... ,-, Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6 Matthew 2:1-12. Golden JubiliYrians John and Mary Lou (Lappe) Kassenbrock of Evansville cele- brated their fiftieth wedding anniversary Dec. 27. They were mar- tied Dec. 27, 1947. They are the parents of five children: John Kassenbrock Jr., Robert Kassenbrock, Thomas Kassenbrock and Donald Kassenbrock, all of Evansville, and Kenneth Kassen- brock of Indianapolis. They have 10 grandchildren. Mr. Kassen- brock is retired from the U.S. Postal Service; Mrs. Kassenbrock is retired from.Kuestor!s.Haedware,- ............................ LinC0 Coffee Services Total Beverage Distributor Indiana-Illinois-Kentucky 46 Varifies of Coffees and Teas WHATEVER YOUR TASTE, WE CAN MATCH IT Washington 254-4409 Evansville 422-1833 I DAVIESS COUNTY ABSTRACT COMPANY, iNC. Joan Grannan, Mgr. Peoples Bank Building Washington, Indiana JONES BODY SHOP = Front end alignment . Complete body rebuilding Radiator Service Estimates Given Call 254-5358 207 E. South -- Washington, IN : : 7 /i !ii!iiill I HEATING & A/C 24 HR SERVICE 428-2665 118 W. 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