December 22, 2019 - Pastor Message05/18/2021
THE YEAR OF DISCIPLESHIP PART 4: WELCOMING THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage’ … After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:12, 911).
During the Advent season we prepare in a special way to welcome Christ, both in celebration of his coming 2000 years ago and in preparation for his coming at the end of time. As part of that preparation, we continue our reflection on the call as Christ’s disciples to welcome others. This week we reflect on the call to welcome those who are different from us, exemplified within the Christmas story by the magi.
Jewish society in ancient Palestine was very much a closed society, with strict social norms about how, when, and if law-abiding Jews could interact with non-Jews, or gentiles. Being faithful Jews, Mary and Joseph would have been wary of welcoming any gentiles into their home, much less these exotic strangers from a distant land. We do not know much about the magi, other than that they were “from the east” and that they studied the stars, and Joseph and Mary knew even less. Yet, welcome them they did. By God’s grace, perhaps discerning his mysterious plan, the Holy Family opened their door to the magi, and the magi responded to this welcome by doing the newborn Christ homage, offering him their unique gifts.
Within any parish, there is always a temptation to close ourselves off from others outside the parish. We develop our own parish culture and community, where everyone knows everyone else and everyone has the same set of expectations about liturgy, ministries, and parish activities. Over time this culture can become rigid, like a wall blocking others, especially those who are different, out. While this is rarely intentional, it can turn people seeking Christ away nonetheless.
Advent provides a good opportunity for us to examine our attitudes, as individuals and as a parish, and to ask ourselves how welcoming we are to those who are different. How welcoming are we to other parishes? How welcoming are we to strangers whom we do not know? How welcoming are we to those of different races, ethnicities, or social groups? How welcoming are we to those who are younger or older than ourselves with their own cultural differences? How welcoming are we to those with disabilities?
These are just some of the questions we need to ask ourselves this Advent as we strive to be more welcoming people and a more welcoming parish. Each of these groups and others, like the magi, bring special gifts to offer Christ in and through our parish, and only by welcoming them can those gifts serve the purposes for which God gave them. May we open ourselves to welcome all people here at St. Boniface and to share our unique gifts together in the service of Christ.
Fr. Marc Stockton