“he inquired diligently”
Wednesday, 6 January 2021
Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis notes that Herod is the prototype of those who spend their time, energy, and talents protecting their own illusions. What is grotesque about Herod is that he accepts unquestioningly the authenticity of the star seen by the Magi, but he is so consumed with self-protecting ambition that he cannot stop everything in his life long enough to marvel at the portent in which he nevertheless believes. He would try to snuff out the sun itself if that would allow him to go on existing as before—the undisturbed master of his fortunes—even if his eyes and ears and the witness of others prove him wrong.
Herod assumes, furthermore, that the whole world serves him, and he tries to conscript into the service of his petty kingship those looking to adore the King of the universe. He begins giving orders to these visiting Magi, these foreigners, and “sends” them as his lackeys and spies to Bethlehem. Only incurable blindness can be so arrogant in the wholly natural way it operates. Herod, who has made Jesus his rival, prepares to ambush the one whom God has anointed “King of the Jews” with all the means of earthly power and human duplicity at his disposal. He pretends to want to adore the newborn King: he tells the Magi that he and they share the same holy intent, “that I too may come and bow down before him”.
Herod persists in mouthing all the vocabulary of piety, but blasphemously. Feigning devotion and the search for truth is the chief instrument of his method. Just as he has already called the Child “the Christ”, he now compounds his guilt by posing as the pious Jew in quest for God. He intends to destroy what he says he wants (and knows he ought) to adore. Our knowledge of God: Does it always incite us to the acts of adoration and charity that by nature it ought to provoke, or does it rather turn us into hypocrites enamoured of violence?
In the past year, where Pope Francis has so forcefully invited us to peaceful dialogue and accompaniment, are there still violent ways we cling to? Myths of military or civic strength and power we want to hold onto for ourselves, or our country? How authentic is our life? Let’s pray for that authenticity today.