12 April, 2019

I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him!” All those who were my friends are on the watch for any mis-step of mine.

~ Jeremiah 20:10 ~

I am never sure what to make of conspiracies. While no one doubts that there are occasions where people conspire to achieve goals, the greater temptation is to see plots everywhere. And the further one goes down the path of paranoia the more conspiracy one finds until, faced with evidence that refutes what you believed in, you conclude: the very absence of a conspiracy is proof of a super-conspiracy involving everyone! Many conspiracy theorists wonder if it is true that as a Jesuit I am part of the secret power behind governments, banking, the Freemasons and the Illuminati. They never believe me when I say that Jesuits would struggle to organise the transport to a booze-up in a brewery.

In South Africa we can all too easily use conspiracy to excuse our failings. We blame our economic woes on government policy, on the Apartheid past, on the unwillingness of white-dominated industries and businesses to ‘transform’, on affirmative action, on crime, on the police (for being inefficient or corrupt), on rival political parties, on foreigners and even on witchcraft. We never take responsibility for our actions, unless of course when they are successful; then we keep the credit for ourselves.

I empathise with poor Jeremiah, but I fear that if we take him too much to heart we will paralyse ourselves with paranoia.

As we move closer to Passion Sunday the mood of the readings gets progressively darker. We sense plots and schemes being hatched around Jesus. What is clear is that Jesus is uncompromising in his commitment to God’s work. His course is set and he will pursue it to the end. In doing that, he in effect splits up the opposition: while some want him dead, others come to believe in him.


Lord, help us to see the part we play in the creation of our society. May we use whatever influence we have whether as parents or in our professional lives to make a positive contribution and to take responsibility rather than disowning our potential to help bring about change. Amen.


Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

Reflection prepared by and

Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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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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