“he inquired diligently”

Matthew 2:7

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Matthew 2:1-12

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.

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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