We are all familiar with the story of the Three Magi (Wise Men, or if you’re from New Jersey, Wise Guys) and the gifts that they brought to Jesus. Our first and second reading also speak of gifts; the extravagant gifts that God lavishes on us—that of inheritance as children of God. These readings speak to more than just ourselves as being the recipients—we are coheirs with God’s children in every race.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow.
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
It has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
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.
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, was written to the Jewish people when they were instructed to leave their exile and return to Israel. They were uncertain and afraid of what their future might hold, but God bolsters their courage by reminding them that God is with them through it all. If they live in trust and honoring God, the whole world will be illuminated with God’s love and everyone will come to them to know God. They are promised that they, “…shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow” because they will see the fruit of their faithfulness and experience the joy of having been a light to others. People who never knew God will come to know God through their example.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians expounds on this calling the Gentiles “coheirs, members of the same body.” This is true today—although we’re considered Gentiles, too—we are meant, in God’s plan, to be brothers and sisters with every one of God’s children; and that’s everyone! Nothing changed in the job we were given in the first reading—we are supposed to be light to the nations and to teach people with our lives the joy of having a relationship with God through Jesus. God means for everyone to inherit eternal life, and it’s our job to make sure that everyone has an authentic opportunity to do so through our example.
The Gospel is the story of Jesus’ first visitors according to Matthew. His first visitors were Magi—astrologers, not Jews—and this is significant. Matthew makes a point of making the first people to experience Jesus as God, as the Messiah, Gentiles. It says that they were “overjoyed”, like the Jews and like we are told we will be when we lead others to God. The Jewish king at the time, Herod, was trying to locate and kill the infant Jesus, because he was afraid. He didn’t want a rival. God wanted it understood by all of us that Jesus came to save everybody. We are called to inclusivity, love beyond the borders of our comfort zones and hospitable welcome to anyone who comes to us needing to know God.
The gifts that Jesus was given by the Magi were gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gifts represented what Jesus was going to be for us; he would be our king, our perfect Priest, and our Savior. They were perfect gifts for him! What is the best gift you’ve ever received, and the best gift that you’ve ever given? Why were they so great?
If Herod had been a real believer in God, he should have been the one who was most excited about Jesus’ coming, but he wasn’t. Why do you think he felt threatened by Jesus? Why do you think the Magi, who weren’t even Jewish, had a different response than Herod to the news that the Messiah was coming? If you had information like the Magi did, that a really important person was going to be born and you should follow a star for a great distance to find him, do you think you’d make the trip?
Tell a story about a time when you’re heart throbbed and felt like it would overflow. Was it when you were in love? When you had a child? When you were given attention or acknowledgment for something good you did? Do you recognize that fullness of heart as related to God?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”