December 29, 2019, First Sunday of Christmas. A reflection on Matthew 2:13-23.
“Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
Joseph listened and followed what the angel has been saying. It is not only here in this gospel reading today. He has been listening and following the angel since the conception of Mary to Jesus until Jesus was to be saved from Herod and even Archelaus.
Today is the first Sunday after Christmas and as we continue to joyfully celebrate this season until the 12th day which is January 5, we are reminded to be faithful to the child Jesus who was born in the manger and was saved several times by his foster father Joseph by listening to and having faith in God through an angel.
Faith is like flying on a plane or riding on a bus of which we have no control of. It is not us who controls the flight or the ride but the pilot and the driver. More so, if we have experienced the ride with the roller coaster Star Wars in Disneyland or the version in Ocean Park – the Hair Raiser that relied so much on the program of the machine. In these riding situations, we are completely putting and entrusting our life to them – the driver, the pilot and the programmed machines that we cannot do anything but sit down and believe and wait for the announcement that we have arrived in our destination or the program is over.
In our gospel story today, we see Joseph, taking the child Jesus from Bethlehem to Egypt and supposed to be back to Israel but because it was Archelaus the son of Herod ruling Judea which means the change is not enough to assure them of the safety of the child, he then went to Galilee. Joseph literally fled with his family and Jesus from an imminent danger to find life and safety. This only tells us that like the many refugees and diaspora of Israel, Jesus was also a refugee, a migrant – a diaspora even when he was still a child. Even more, we should also know that the ruler of Galilee and Perea is also the brother of Archelaus – Herod Antipas whom we will know later on to be the King Herod Jesus named to be ‘fox” in Luke 13:32, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ It was when this Herod send men to order Jesus to leave from his territory.
But what is diaspora then and now?
Migrants in the Bible and religious history are called the diaspora or dispersed, scattered. Primarily, they are the Jews who were expelled from the land of Israel (the old and Biblical, not the Israel of today).
According to Prof. Antonio Tujan, “Migrants, migrant workers, and refugees of all kinds are all part of diaspora — the exodus or mass relocation of peoples due to societal or/and natural causes. The individual who migrated automously is still part of a phenomenon of mass displacement. Whether the displacement is apparently voluntary or involuntary through commercial recruiters (such as manning agencies, placement services and other private trafficking businesses and ‘official trafficking policies’).
Conflicts and natural calamities are sudden events that produce refugees in a mass scale. But societal or/and natural conditions can also be slow-evolving, resulting in voluntary migration of individuals. All of this result in a diaspora – displacement and the creation of a mass of peoples or communities of the displaced.”
Like Joseph, the diaspora of today have listened to and followed with their own angelic-like encounters brought about by extreme poverty – including economic, political and social situation of their countries of origin. Some angel-like people invited them to leave the country, some suggested and pushed them to flee from the country to find life and safety in a foreign land. And while working in a faraway land they were able to help raise their families back home. But no, not all of the diaspora are safe and have a good life in a foreign land. In fact most of them have become slaves, maltreated, marginalized and discriminated by their employers and to battle against the unfair labor policies in the host countries.
Historically, it was the imperialist policy of neoliberal globalization that since the 1970s created an upsurge of migration by implementing the system of labor contractualization and labor placement agencies in industrialized countries. This system easily gave way to labor contracting through partners in source countries in the South such as the Philippines where the dictator Marcos promoted this as official policy of labor export to amass profits by its bureaucrat capitalist cronies.
Capitalism through the neoliberal economic policies it has been espousing will only make more and more migrations from the third countries to compose the slaves of diaspora – the migrants, refugees and displaced people, in the host countries. Ending this requires a broadest coalition united front among the diaspora organizations which is tactically making presence and pressures for individual and collective rights while in the host countries and also effectively and efficiently contributing to the national struggles of peoples of our countries of origin.
The faith of Joseph made him hopefully waited for the angel to tell him about going back to Judea from Egypt. It should be the same faith that keeps the diaspora positively but actively wait for the day of going back home. We should have learned that the waiting should be like that of the advent experience that is anticipating and participating in the realization of the building up of the Kingdom of God in our present context – that one day should come that the diaspora will be celebrating Christmas days together with their own families.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Until next for the feast of Circumcision and Naming of Jesus in January 1, 2020