“calling the Magi in secret”

Matthew 2:7

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Matthew 2:1-12

I’ve been reading Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis’ Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. He makes that point that in recent weeks two characters have wished to do something in secret. In our story of the Epiphany, King Herod desired to summon the Magi in secret. We might well ask why he did this? Of course, we can recall that Joseph on learning about Mary’s pregnancy, had wanted to dismiss her “secretly” too, but this was because he was a just man and did not want to expose her before the world. His secretiveness was out of decency and compassion.

Herod deals in secrecy because he knew his deeds belonged to the darkness, because he was putting all his efficiency and power at the service of the ambition and anxiety that were gnawing at his soul. Herod was taking a preventive measure as well: he surely wanted to nip this potential adversary in the bud. Herod did things with the prudence of the beast of prey that stalks its victim on velvet paws so as not to alert it to the imminent danger. But perhaps silent scheming only unmasks Herod’s profound despair, the hysteria of someone cornered after his malevolent designs have been discovered. If Herod exhibits an exaggerated prudence, it is only to hasten the moment when he will shriek out a maddened shout of victory.

I wonder if the response to such activity is equally silent? Pope Francis is famous for not reacting publicly, but rather holding firm to the belief that the more room you allow the evil spirit to reveal itself the more obvious the origin of the impulse becomes, and so the easier to discern and dismiss it.

We might ask ourselves what is it that we do in ‘secret’? Is it to save someone else? Or to save ourselves? And isn’t our Christian experience such that we should prefer to live in the light, to live in the truth? To come and adore, at this time, He who is our way, our light, and our truth?

O God,

Who revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy that we, who know you already by faith, may be helped to imitate the Shepherds and the Magi as they behold the beauty of your sublime glory.


Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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