Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude

Manifestation of Jesus to the Peoples of all Nations

Epiphany saves Christmas from sentimentality. The God who comes to us in the birth of Jesus will die as Simenon foretold and Matthew prefigures today when threatened by a tyrant. There is the paradox of being rejected by his own and accepted outsiders. It is to recognise that Jesus is present in a manger surrounded by messy and smelly animals in a poor town. It is as the Magi found after following the star, that we can learn to look for him, not in a palace, but in the most ordinary people, places and situations. Taking a different route as did the Magi, means not returning to the symbols of power as in Herod, and coming home to ourselves.

Again, there is a great reversal when God comes to us in the flesh through the most vulnerable. Today’s gospel disrupts and challenges every idea of power we have. Whatever we think of in terms of power, domination, control is disrupted as we contemplate a helpless child, poor parents, and marginalised shepherds. This feast is telling us to follow the star where we will encounter the God who disrupts us in the lives of people at the margins. What do we see? Who do we see? What would the Magi see if they came to Gaza today? Would they see a child in the rubble? Would they come with mere charitable contributions or raise their voices at what is happening to men, women, and children? By the way, who authorised the killing of suspected members of Hamas? The prophetic among us say that silence is complicity. To call what is happening as complex is to hide under the banner of complicity. It is said that Gaza ‘has become the moral compass of the world.’ Our humanity and Christian witness is at stake if we are not appalled, if not shaken to the core, if not outraged at this genocide, if not feeling the anger, if not recognising the brokenness or sharing the mourning and grief so many are experiencing. Recall what Simeon said to Mary and Joseph about,’this child being destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted — and you yourself a sword will pierce — so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed’ (Luke 2:34).


What is being revealed as watch and fail to act? The people of Gaza and the West Bank are in torment by our silence and complicity as our political and religious leaders give the nod to those carrying out this genocide, or hide the truth with propaganda and lies where the Palestinian word is treated with suspicion and qualification where that of the oppressor, who has a clear track record of lies and misinformation, as accurate. The challenge to Empire is stark in the gospel today and the reality before us. This empire has called for and still calls for the emptying and ethnic cleansing of a people. It is replicating the Massacre of the Holy Innocents. It is a lack of humanity. It is a failure to see all as equal.


The Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh where today they might bring little white coffins!! We  are called to give the gifts of love, solidarity, and raised voices. Munther Isaac, pastor of Bethlehem’s Lutheran Church cries, ‘In our pain, anguish and lament we have searched for God and found (him) under the Rubble in Gaza. Jesus himself became the victim of the very same violence of the Empire. When he was in our land he was tortured. Crucified he bled out as others watched. He was killed and cried out in pain: my God, where are you? In Gaza today God is under the rubble and in this Christmas season, as we search for Jesus, he is not to be found in the site of Rome, but our side of the wall. He is in a cave with a simple family, an occupied family. He is vulnerable, barely and miraculously surviving a massacre himself. He is among the refugees. Among a refugee family. This is where Jesus is to be found today.’


If Jesus were to be born today, he would be in a manger but under the rubble in Gaza. This is where he is as many among us prioritise pride, wealth, power, and weapons and justify and rationalise the killing of children. We are reminded that Jesus is at home with people who are marginalised, suffering, oppressed and displaced. Matthew ends his Gospel, with Jesus saying that what we do or fail to do for the least of our sisters and brothers, is done to him. Jesus walks with them. They are his. And as Simeon prophesied, this same Child will rise up from the midst of pain, destruction, darkness, and death to challenge Empires. This is the hope of Christmas.


We are beckoned to move beyond what we think we know to allow something new stir within us as we look for the new on the horizon and make concrete choices along the way. We are called to expand our horizons and see ourselves as sisters and brothers within our Common Home. Amidst darkness, we can see light where many people have not succumbed to apathy and refuse to continue being silent. We see this in the resilience of First Nations people around the world and the Palestinians throughout their history to the present. We are called to look for the love in the most insignificant places – to see traces of God’s presence everywhere – especially in overlooked people - and places like piles of rubble. May we find ways towards a developing ‘politics of peace’ – new ways of relating - and seeking alternatives to the ‘politics of violence’ that leads to destruction, inhumanity and neglect. We can show that a renewed life – a new normal - is possible for the most marginalised among us. It means working with those who prioritise justice and respond to the cries of the poor and being living witnesses of God’s presence in a broken world. By refusing to be silent, we can reveal new and radical alternatives that offer new and creative ways of being together.


It takes courage to exist in a hard world with difficult circumstances and difficult people. It means being willing to take risks; being willing to make one’s voice heard; being willing to stand apart from the herd; and being aware of oneself and the other, even if it means being called unreal or naïve. Jesus was not crucified for his beliefs but for what he represented in the world – a challenge to power and empire and what these represent. Jesus implored people to believe a certain way but to live differently. The coming of the Magi upsets the political equilibrium. It called into question the rule of an insecure king whose anxiety, fear, paranoia, and sense of threat to his power which led to the killing of innocent children which continues. The politics of domination and of costly resistance that resulted in Jesus’ death is being repeated. When the Magi left the child, their ways of thinking were shaken up and their priorities challenged. As we look at the genocide occurring in Gaza, will we allow ourselves to collude with the power-hungry, vengeful, and fearful Herod or Netanyahu or follow the God revealed in this child? Will we take another way beyond the familiar and safe? Will we expand our horizons and boundaries of concern towards people that God chooses to make a home amongst – ‘the least among us?’ God’s presence is found in engaging compassionately and sharing with others and protecting and defending the least. We cannot be content with our ‘faith’ if it does not touch suffering people and ‘the least’ among us. We cannot be content when our political and religious leaders are silent or collude with the rich and powerful and make life miserable for the poor.



We have choices. We can choose to do things differently – to be ‘about the things of God’ - the things close to God’s heart. As we begin another year, God is waiting to encounter us anew, somewhere beyond our expectations - bigger than any ritual or tradition. Epiphany is any time when God appears in surprising places and pushes against our constructed realities. It may surprise us in the places and people where we might meet God. It may also surprise God when we courageously show up in places and situations and be with people because we have taken another road.


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