Fr. Charles Irvin
saiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
In today’s scripture passages the language is epic, the imagery apocalyptic, the action dramatic. There is ominous danger from a tyrannical and insanely jealous king, a king who mercilessly slaughters innocent babies. There are worldly rulers of great power, wisdom, and wealth, on a quest. There is a great escape, a long journey into the land of the pyramids, that land wherein the waters of the great river Nile push back the boundaries of the death-dealing desert in order that humans might live. The hero-child, the God-Man baby, is saved in order to grow in wisdom, strength, and knowledge so that He may push back the boundaries of arid human living, and even death itself, that we might live in eternal life.
Light struggles against darkness. Discovery follows wandering and searching. Truth vanquishes deception. Good prevails over evil. A heavenly guiding star shines in night’s darkness, a darkness that does not overcome God’s Light entering the dark void of chaos, reminding us that in the Book of Genesis God’s first act of creation was to create light in the darkness of chaos.
In our time there are those who say that light and life happened because of blind chance. We are who we are, they claim, as a result of a blind and chaotic development of an evolutionary force. But how, we are entitled to ask, can something come from nothing? Isn’t it true that the only thing that nothing can produce is nothing? And how can evolution create light out of darkness?
For us, when we look at the cosmos, the world, and our own human nature, we see evidence of a cosmic creative intelligence. The sun, moon, stars, and the creatures that inhabit our world, are manifestations, epiphanies, of God’s creative sharing of His love and life with us.
The Magi are nobles; noble human beings possessed of great earthy power and wisdom, trekking for the truth. The epic Star Trek series of movies finds its origin in today’s biblical narrative. Finding what they quest, the Magi fall down and acknowledge the Source of Life which they have come to recognize. They bring gold to honor his kingship and dominion; they bring frankincense to acknowledge His Divine Being; and they bring myrrh, the ointment used for burial, knowing that the worldly will try to rid themselves of His presence among us. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were those days, back in the Eastern world, priceless and precious substances, treasures of the utmost value in the life and times of people who lived there back then.
Immediately the Darth Vader of the day, King Herod, Satan’s agent, leaps into action. Evil is the first to be alert to the approaching presence of goodness. We see that in our own lives, don’t we? Try to advocate taking the good path, the moral option, and note what happens around you. Accusations of being “holier than thou,” accusations of being a hypocritical Christian, will quickly surface. You will be mocked, especially for being a Catholic, ridiculed, shunned, and cast out of the world’s inner circle of the elite, the moment you attempt to be an epiphany of God’s purity and goodness. Evil is the first to jump into action when goodness manifests itself.
Why do history’s Herods fear the child? Why do we fear the child within us? Is it because a child lays claim to our time, our energy, our caring concern, and our commitment? Commitment requires the closing off of other options. And, as the Evil One knows full well, as he whispers into our ears, the false notion that to be like God, to be god-like, we must keep all of our options open. The presence of a child is quite limiting. So is love. Why? Because it is focused.
Or can it be the fear of love that is rebelling against the child? Children require love. If love is a threat then the baby must be eliminated. This Herod knew full well. No wonder that even in our world of today, not just back when Jesus was born, children are at risk.
A self-indulgent culture attempts to reduce the claims of children. It needs to eliminate their insistent calls of love. As a result the world needs to marginalize the demands of commitment. In a culture that exalts living together for pleasure without the restrictions of commitment, marriage itself must be marginalized and put to flight.
Narcissism, instant gratification, sensuality without limits, and the withholding of promised commitment, are the tactics of the Father of lies, the great Deceiver, the Seducer of Souls. Euphemisms are his literary form so that death is cosmetically covered over and benignly renamed “termination of life;” killing is made to seem merciful; only beautiful children are called “wanted,” and the suffering and dying are called upon to voluntarily step aside for the sake of the sleek who want more out of their limitless lives.
The Herodian consciousness isn’t something remote and distant, something that came and went 2,000 years ago. Oh, no. The Herodian consciousness is quite alive, and quite active, right here in our time. All forms of innocence are to be slaughtered before they gain much life and strength, before they can establish claims on our hearts.
It is good, therefore, to ponder the meaning of the very last words in today’s Gospel narrative: “…and having received a message in a dream, they returned home by another route.”
What route are we taking on our trek back home to heaven? A route that takes us back to Herod, or a route that is prompted by the message of angels? Love requires choices. What choices have we made? What choices will we make?
[Note: Fr. Charlie’s book ENTERING THE HEART OF GOD:Praying the Lord’s Prayer In Our Times is available at