Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother, and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few. Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the new-born king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts, and warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt. Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob (Israel). She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.
God is light and in him there is no darkness… 1 John 1:5
As one who primarily thinks in images, I see a mom and her little boy walking on a dark night. The mother holds a flashlight with a strong beam that dispels the darkness. As long as the little guy walks close by her, he not only can see where they are going, he feels safe from harm. If, however, he falls behinds or steps off the path, the darkness will swallow him. No longer will he see clearly. He will quickly become frightened. Isn’t this the way when we are in a close relationship with God, who is light? With Jesus who is “the Light of the World”? By receiving the Eucharist and spending time in prayer and reflection, we are better able to stay close to him and not be “led into temptation.” Gracious God, help us remember that Christ is our light. May his light “shine in our hearts, shine in the darkness,” as we go about our days.