For those who are familiar with Matthew’s gospel this verse surely must have rang a bell. In fact, this verse is found in the Bible portion which the Church has rightly placed in the liturgy of epiphany, which feast we have celebrated some days ago.
The star! Which is not simply a Christmas decoration on a Christmas tree or hanging somewhere else. Rather and more than that, the star is a marker towards the mystery, primarily that of life. That life in abundance, which is found hidden and sacramentally present in every human life, from its moment of conception till its natural end. In Pope Francis’ words, it was the star who made “the three magi, who put aside worldly power and success and rose to [follow the star] to Jesus”. Thus, the star became a vehicle thanks to which they encountered God himself in the Child.
But why the Magi were able to see the star and recognize it? Was it just because of their sheer intellectual knowledge? Not at all! Their clear intention is celebrated by what they boldly affirm at the second verse of Matthew’s second chapter: For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him (Matt 2:2). In other words, they have come to Jerusalem for the sole intent of worshipping the Child-King. In a fully-fledged human being!
God is to be found not just in the Bible, in the marvelous cathedrals or the most devout places of worship. First and foremost, God is to be found in each and every one of us. The star, that is our life circumstances and events, our daily stars, always lead to the Child that is present in every human being that we come across. And, this Child, whom amazed us by his sweetness and tenderness, and yes, by his persistent fragility, one day will be the One who will judge our actions. The thing is that his judgement, irrespective of all our “ifs” and “buts”, is going to be irreversible. There will be no appeal to his definite decision.
It is the same Child of Bethlehem, that we so fondly decorated in our homes, churches, working places and what not, that one day will abandon his little manger and take hold of his judging throne which belongs to him alone. And, in that most solemn gathering, He will give his verdict on how we treated him in the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the sick, the prisoners, and the migrants.
As we were celebrating these Christmas festivities, in the coziness of our homes, some 49 migrants, involving women and children, are stranded for days in the Mediterranean sea simply waiting a port to welcome them. The Church, thanks to her bishops, was the first to mobilize herself to do her outmost to be a voice for the voiceless and for those who are endangering their lives in the open waters. The letter by the Maltese Episcopal Conference to the General Secretary of COMECE (the Commission of the Bishops Conference of the European Union), Fr Olivier Poquillon OP, already shows the utmost and tangible commitment of the Church to help the Child in these migrants whose “whose only ‘fault’ is that of fleeing a cruel environment in hope for a better life, one which respects the human dignity we Catholics and Europeans strongly promote as one of our fundamental values”.
While appreciating that “despite the constraints on receptivity due to its small size and the high population density, Malta is playing an important role in rescuing and when possible relocating migrants” the letter of the Maltese bishops highlighted the Church’s cooperation “with the Malta Government to offer accommodation and hospitality to these migrants.” Additionally, the bishops strongly urged their European counterparts, namely other bishops members in their Episcopal Conferences in all European Countries, “to take similar action and appeal to their leaders of respective countries”. Yes! The Church should continue to be the star in taking political leaders near the Child as present in the suffering ones. Fashioned and built on the Christian faith, the authentic European identity is one built on “solidarity and saving our brothers and sisters in need”, as the bishops rightly said in their letter. Moreover, archbishop Scicluna’s visit to a migrant rescue vessel presently held in Malta on Saturday 5 January, to show solidarity with NGO’s mission of saving lives at sea within the context of a political clampdown, sent the clear message that, as he has rightly put it, “people’s lives are priceless and negotiations should never take place at the expense of the suffering”.
Pope Francis angelus heartfelt appeal, of the following day, addressed to the European leaders for “concrete solidarity” regarding the 49 migrants stranded aboard rescue ships in the Mediterranean powerfully confirms that only the star of solidarity can take us to the Child who is now in complete distress and anxious of being helped and saved from another imminent death.