Art by © Carole Kabrin, 2018
Used with Permission
There are two reflections for this feast
1 John 1:5-2:2 Matthew 2:13-18
Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents. This feast calls us to remember that King Herod, in order to jealously preserve and wield his power, massacred the young boys of Bethlehem. It was one man’s attempt to silence God. Rather than ask what might be the message of the newborn king, Herod walled off his heart, and sought to destroy anyone who might challenge his reign. Herod sought to maintain the status quo by exerting his strength without questioning the expense of violence.
The Gospel tells us that God spoke to Joseph and said: “Rise, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt.” The holy family was saved not through angel songs, Christmas stars, and pageantry, but through the burdens and the trials of traveling as refugees. They were forced to leave their homeland because of political power and to travel to a land where their people had once been slaves. Celebrating Passover while in Egypt must have been an unexplainable event for them.
This Gospel story has a very clear message for us today. If we watch the news, we hear of many refugee families traveling many miles to the United States for safety and a new life. The “lucky” ones are not refused, but while being processed are held in detention camps that were not built for families and which provide hopefully some basic nourishment, but no comfort, little care, and inadequate medical oversight. And we consider it a plus because the children are no longer taken from their parents.
Therefore, as we remember the Holy Innocents, let us remember the innocent sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, schoolmates, and all the other children who have died in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras because they were unable to escape the gangs, the death squads, or the dangers of the flight for security. Let us also remember that recently two children have died in our custody of dehydration, fatigue, and malnourishment. The officials are questioning how it happened that in a land where medical care is touted as outstanding, two refugee children could not be evaluated and saved.
Are we ashamed as Americans? Do we like Rachel weep for the children? Unfortunately, it is possible for us to celebrate Christmas without noticing that Maria, José, and Jésus are being held in a Texas camp. We talk about a wall as though refusal of immigrants is the definition of a good immigration policy. We become single issue people, concerned for our own jobs, homes, comfort and do not attend to what is happening to our global neighbors or even to the animal migration patterns. It is time to be like Rachel, we should not be consoled.
Pope Pius XII reminds us: The migrant Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, is the archetype of every … migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, beloved parents and relatives, close friends, and to seek a foreign soil.” Exsul Familia Nazarethana (1952)
Let us pray for our own conversion and for that of our country. Let us pray that the Christmas story takes root in our hearts so that we can see the refugees with God’s eyes. As people of faith, this is the time for our voice to be heard and our hearts to be transformed so that we welcome those who seek safety in our land with compassion, care, and justice.
Karen Rossman, OP
1 John 1:5-2:2 Matthew 2:13-18
We have been abundantly blessed this past week with beautiful, meaningful liturgies, concerts, family time even time in quiet reverie. Yet, the reminder of today’s readings brings us back with a jolt to the world in which many live.
- Remember the faces of the children you met over the holidays:
- Those to whom you gave contributions so they and their families might have food or perhaps a few gifts this year. Recall the faces of the bell ringers outside the doors of shops. See again the faces of parents who brought their little ones to the manger scene or even to Santa.
3. See the faces of children on T.V. whose Christmas has been in a holding center somewhere on the border of our country or Mexico, or perhaps in a hospital bed.
4, See the faces of parents who long to hold their children once again but as their growing child moves towards adulthood, they may be caught in an addiction, estrangement from family or even perhaps carrying a weapon now.
The reading from Matthew’s gospel today tells the terrible story of the tyrant Herod, who not wanting any rivals, orders the massacre of all male children two years and younger which brought forth sobbing and loud lamentation from their parents and others who loved them. While this story may or may not be historically correct, from the time of Jesus forward lamentation continues to come from deep within the untold number of parents and loved ones who have lost children.
During the time of Jesus ‘ life and certainly even til now, those who are/were close to home came to glory through suffering. St. Paul reminds us that “suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us.(Romans 5:3-5)
In a writing on suffering by the author Jeffrey Snead, we are reminded that “There are things one can see only with eyes that have wept.”
Gracious God, may the occasion of hearing your gospel soften our hearts with the knowledge that joy at your birth is short-lived for many people today. While the massacre of innocent lives continues across the globe, unjust leaders wreak havoc leaving behind a train of human misery, atrocities, hunger, disease, refugee camps and displacement of so many people. Once again, we witness to your birth and, vow to search for you and find you that we might imitate you Emmanuel, in a life of non-violence and a welcoming presence to those on the margins of our society.
We ask this through the intercession of your Mother Mary, Amen
Molly Nicholson, OP