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Posts Tagged ‘Herod’

massacre

Christmas Eve, late at night, burning the Advent wreath down, listening to Christmas hymns, the children and Regina finishing the decorating, and contemplating the Nativity in a year that has challenged us all like few others. I’m not thinking of peaceful nativities and Hallmark images.

I’m thinking this Christmas Eve of how much the real nativity speaks to the weariness in so many hearts this year. Specifically, I’m thinking of my best friend who endured three heart surgeries and almost died as many times, of Father Luke McCann who was the most influential mentor in my life who died on Columbus Day, of Superstorm Sandy having laid waste my community, and the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary.

It’s been quite a year, yet the story we tell tonight reveals the main characters, not as humans without a care because of God’s design for their lives, but as characters who suffered greatly because of God’s design for their lives: a design that required the deepest faith to accept, and the most difficult burden to bear.

“Faith,” as Father Luke McCann would remind me, “isn’t for when we have all the answers, but for when the roof is caving in and we don’t know what’s coming next.”

Mary had to endure a lifetime of taunts, of deep suspicion and gossip over her fidelity to Joseph, and her divine son’s legitimacy. She had to walk Joseph through the doubt about her fidelity and sanity, and it would still require the assistance of angelic visions to convince Joseph to stay with her.

Then there was the unimaginable selfishness of a society that had become so calloused and coarsened to life that not one person would give up their bed for a young girl in labor.

Not one.

The indignity of a barn awaited the birth of the King of Kings. They wouldn’t be long in the barn because the government, in the person of the king, had decided to butcher every male under the age of two in an attempt to slaughter Mary and Joseph’s child. They would need to live on the road, on the run, as they fled into Egypt; far from either of their families, and with none of the help that a new and young mother needs from the older women of the family.

Homelessness, death, privation, targeting of babies for death…

Not much has changed in 2,000 years. But God came to earth and showed from the moment of His human conception that He would identify with the poor and the least among us. Having escaped murder several times, He would eventually suffer that indignity as well. The nativity narratives tell us not only of God’s great condescension in taking on our humanity, but in His great identification in all things with the suffering of the world. It is the coupling of the great condescension and the great identification with the poor and the least that point to the majesty of God, a majesty whose might is shown in His infinite mercy and forgiveness.

When people look to the tragedies of this year and ask, “Where was God?”, what is really being asked is why God could permit such evil. For me this evening, as I look at the nativity set, the answer is that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph suffered mightily as well. I often wonder what went through Mary and Joseph’s minds and hearts as they contemplated all of those children slaughtered in the effort to get their child. The joy of the birth swallowed up as their hearts must have broken beyond description.

God was right there, physically there, in the midst of it all. So it is that He remains right here with us in the midst of it all.

If it’s true that there was a murderous Herod with designs on the child’s life, then it is also true that there were Magi who returned by a different route, having left gifts to sustain the young family in Egyptian exile.

If it’s true that there was the indignity of a stable, it’s also true that there was the great Theophany, when Heaven opened onto earth and the Angels sang.

If it’s true that there was the parsimony of the residents in the inns, there was the adoration by the shepherds and the Magi.

If it’s true that Mary suffered ridicule and the opprobrium of the women of Israel, it is true that her fidelity to the Father and the Son was rewarded greatly in Heaven.

If it’s true that the slaughter of innocents heralded the first coming of our Lord in His humble origins, then it is true that this mass slaughter of innocents in the womb and the classrooms of America and the world will herald the Second Coming of Jesus in glory.

So, on this quiet night as I reflect on a year that has tried our souls, I contemplate the sufferings of Mary and Joseph, of the mothers and fathers, grandparents and families of Herod’s victims, but also on all of the goodness that God sent into their darkness. I also think of the immense outpouring of charity in the wake of that killer storm in October.

I praise God for our modern Magi; the thousands of volunteers who came from around the nation to help us rebuild, for the endless convoys of truckloads of food, clothing, and supplies. I praise God for the goodness that so much suffering elicited–mainly from church groups acting in the name of Jesus.

I praise God for the outpouring of love, and prayers, and toys for the children and residents of Sandy Hook and Newtown.

I praise God that evil never has the last word, and always evokes a far greater expression of goodness and virtue.

I praise God for all of the good people whom God has sent into my life, whose goodness has been the sign of His constant love and presence, especially for Regina and the children.

Most of all, I praise God for the witness of Mary and Joseph. In their darkest hours they never questioned God’s presence, or His love, or His goodness, or His fidelity. Their faith told them that there was a purpose beyond all human understanding and that He was with them always. They are our perfect role models in this difficult year.

Theirs is a nativity for our time.

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Carl Heinrich Bloch, "The Slaughter of the Innocents", Oil On Canvas

What would I have done? Would I have had the courage to stand against the tyrannical King who ordered the slaughter of innocents? Would I have helped Mary and Joseph, or any other mother and child escape the murderous wrath of a jealous King? I’d like to think that the answer is yes.

While there are far less severe dangers today, Herod has been eclipsed by an army of bloody tyrants who walk the corridors of power today. The Democrat party gives hundreds of millions of dollars annually to groups such as Planned Parenthood, who in turn lavish millions of dollars on… Democrats running for office. Of course, the agreement is that the price of power is babies must die.

Yes, I used the imperative.

No, it’s not melodramatic.

We have long since passed some academic right to choose abortion. The field of Obstetrics brings unrelenting pressure to bear on women who might be carrying a less than perfect child. Trisomic conditions are cause for summary execution. Women and men are brow-beaten, called selfish (and worse) for wanting to bring their special needs children into the world. If the baby is anencephalic, parents are called monsters for bringing the child to term.

No, it seems that there is a mandate now for abortion. And the list of those marked as unworthy of life continues to grow. Still, for some that’s not good enough.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers and Pregnancy Resource Centers are under assault in several states, with New York City being the most recent target. Chris Slattery started EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers 25 years ago and has over 38,000 confirmed saves between our 12 centers.

That will not be allowed to stand if NARAL, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and former PP deathscort and bill sponsor Jessica Lappin have their way. Their legislation is aimed at driving women away from our doors. Where to?

Right into the arms of our modern day Herods.

Choice? There can be no choice if abortion is the only option. By their own admission, Planned Parenthood only concerns themselves with contraception and abortion. They refer out for prenatal care (if the baby is lucky enough to make it out of PP alive). Choice died about 20 years ago. There is an imperative now, the growing movement to silence those of us who guarantee choice by providing viable alternatives.

Chris and I will be starting a petition drive this week that I hope all will take a moment to participate in. That’s the very least that each of us can do. It is how we can stand up to the Herods of our day and make our voices known. Like the One sought for death 2,000 years ago, these children are our salvation in so very many ways.

They ground us, make us face maturity by calling us to focus on their utter helplessness. They teach us the meaning of love. They teach us redemptive suffering. They save us from eternal adolescent narcissism, and draw us closer to God.

There is so much that we can do, and some of us are fighting this particular battle full time. But we need everyone’s help with the petition. In facing down Herod, the pen does quite nicely.

So as we begin to move closer to Christmas, to the timeless narrative of the Nativity, and the story of Herod’s evil, we should bear in mind that we are all called to do something about the slaughter of innocents in our day. The thousands who staff the more than 2,300 CPC’s and PRC’s save babies daily from the senseless slaughter unleashed on us by seven twisted men in 1973. They are the frontline shields between these babies and certain death.

I don’t know what I would have done then.

I do know what we are called to do now.

The petition is on its way.

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