This past Wednesday, the 28th day of December, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents, those children "two years of age or younger" from Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were brutally slaughtered by King Herod as he sought to do away with this "newborn king" that the magi were searching for. Herod's fear of a king greater than himself, his selfish desire to possess the power for himself, his insecurity in the face of a greater power, led him to do what so many over the centuries have done - to act irrationally, inhumanly, brutally toward others, and especially grievously, to do so to those who are innocent and have no ability to defend themselves. In our day we look at those innocents caught up in the conflict in Syria. In our day we look at the defenseless unborn sacrificed for a variety of reasons in abortion. In our day we look at abuse and neglect and trafficking and violence inflicted upon our young. In our day we look at a world filled with hatred and cynicism, hopelessness and self centeredness, evil and the lack of values and most importantly faith and love that deny the future generations a vision to follow and a goal to seek. Quoting the Hebrew scriptures, the Gospel of Matthew spoke of Rachel lamenting her children, who were no more.
That afternoon, I prayed with the family of a young woman, Jessica, of thirty who died unexpectedly on Christmas Day. A heartbreaking time in their lives, this family struggles to find answers, solace and consolation. Pray for them. Jessica was the mother of a twenty-two month old child - the reverse of the Holy Innocents story ... this time the child lamenting his mother. Our strength lies in our faith in God's unlimited love.
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On the 29th we remembered Thomas Becket, the martyred Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1100's under King Henry II of England. His is a story of conversion that led to the championing of the rights of the Church over the State - God against King. Made into a great movie years ago starring Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as Becket and Henry, it is a compelling historical drama that echoes a struggle that finds its way into the fabric of our lives.