HE SHALL BE CALLED A NAZARENE
(A biblical reflection on the FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY [Year A] – Sunday, 29 December 2019)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
First Reading: Sirach 3:2-6,12-14; Psalms: Psalm 128:1-5; Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-21
The Scripture Text
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the Child, to destroy Him.” And he rose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called My son.”
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and His mother, and to to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and His mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled. “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 RSV)
Herod the Great ruled Judea (a region in Palestine inhabited by the Jews) from about 37 BCE – 4 BCE. Because the Romans who controlled Palestine sometimes sold kingdoms to the highest bidder, some historians believe Herod obtained his position of power only after making some very well placed bribes.
Buying one’s way to the top often led to sleepless nights because there was always the chance someone would come along with a bigger bribe. That thought must have crossed Herod’s mind because he was paranoid that someone was out to take his place as king. We know that he arrested and put to death anyone whom he suspected (including some of his own sons).
Herod must have gotten pretty nervous when the wise men from the East visited his palace asking where they could find the newborn king of the Jews. Because he was afraid the child they were looking for would one day take the throne away from him, Herod made plans to locate this new king and kill him. When the wise men from the East failed to return to him with the information he requested, Herod protected his power by killing all the boys who were two years old or younger.
In the book of Exodus, we hear about how God rescued the Jews from enslavement in Egypt and brought them back to the Promised Land (the land of Israel). Matthew goes out of his way to tell us Jesus made a similar trip from Egypt to the Promised Land as a symbolic way of saying that God is once again rescuing the people. Through Jesus, God is about to save not only the Jews, but all those who believe in Him.
Jesus came to save all people, including Herod. Like Herod, is there anything in your life you are unwilling to ever give up? Why is this so important to you? Is it possible it is getting in the way of your salvation?
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 12-13.)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please hold each family in Your heart. Where there has been hurt, bring Your healing touch. Where there is struggle, send Your Holy Spirit. Empower us all to withstand the evil one’s attempts to rob us of our hope. Amen.
Jakarta, 28 December 2019 [Feast of the Holy Innocents]
A Christian Pilgrim