Monday, December 28, 2009

A Voice Was Heard In Ramah, Rachel Weeping For Her Children.

Monday, December 28, 2009
Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Reading 1 1 John 1:5 -- 2:2
This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ
and proclaim to you:
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we say, "We have fellowship with him,"
while we continue to walk in darkness,
we lie, and do not act in truth.
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light,
then we have fellowship with one another,
and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
If we say, "We are without sin", we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just,
and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all wrongdoing.
If we say, "We have not sinned", we make him a liar,
and his word is not in us.
My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, the rightous one.
He is expiation for our sins, and not only for our sins,
but for those of the whole world.

Today's First Reading seems less directed at innocent infants and toddlers whom we are remembering today than at ourselves, who are far from innocent. It begins with a message from Jesus Christ himself, which He proclaims to us: "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." Would that we could say as much about ourselves! Perhaps we can identify more with the next statement: "If we say 'We have fellowship with him', while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie, and do not act in truth." If I am asked, I will acknowledge that I am a Christian -- but what sort of Christian am I?

John goes on to make an interesting observation: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of His Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin." We might have expected him to say that if we walk in the light, we will have fellowship with Jesus -- but no, we have fellowship with one another. That is,of course, the central theme of John's First Letter. There can be no union with Christ if we do not have union with one another. Indeed, it is through union with our brothers and sisters that our union with Christ is formed; there is no other way.

John then goes on to encourage us to be honest about our failings. If we claim to be free from sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and there is no truth in us. Acknowledging our shortcomings is part of the truth. If we admit our sins, Jesus, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every stain of sin. On the other hand, if we say, "We have never sinned!" we make Christ a liar and his word finds no place within us.

Not to worry, though! If any of us does sin, we have, in the presence of the Father, a righteous and just intercessor on our behalf, Jesus Christ himself. He is an offering not only for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. All we need do is surrender ourselves completely to his compassionate mercy and, with his help, live in fellowship with our brothers and sisters. The infants and toddlers we remember today did not have the opportunity to live long enough to enjoy fellowship and love in this world. Let us not squander the precious opportunities we are given all the days of our lives to live in the light of God's merciful love, and to share that love with one another.

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Responsorial Psalm 124
Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Had not the LORD been with us --
When men rose up against us,
Then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.
Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
Over us then would have swept the raging waters.
Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Broken was the snare,
And we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.

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Gospel Matthew 2:13-18
When the Magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and said,
"Rise, take the child and his mother,
flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him."
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night,
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet
might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I have called my son.
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the Magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem
and its vicinity two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the Magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:
A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.
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The Gospel Reading for today begins with Joseph being warned by an angel in a dream: "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt." They are to stay there until they receive further instructions. In fact, they remained until after the death of Herod, when it was safe for them to return to their home in Nazareth. Meanwhile, Herod realized that the Magi were not going to come back to him, as he had requested. He now felt the threat to his throne even more, and so he ordered the wholesale massacre of every male child two years of age or less in the village of Bethlehem and the surrounding countryside. He was not taking any changes. His behavior was totally in character, as we know from historical accounts.

Herod had ordered the execution of his wife Mariamne and two of his sons because he considered them a threat to his throne. The historian Josephus records several other examples of Herod's readiness to protect his power against threats real or imagined. According to Josephus, "he never stopped avenging and punishing daily those who had chosen to be of the party of his enemies." Another writer, spekaing of the massacre of the infants, said that it was "quite in keeping with the character of Herod, who did not hesitate to put to death anyone who might be a threat to his power." For such a tyrant, the massacre of a score of villagers' children meant nothing. For us, on the other hand, the event is significant: because these children died in place of Jesus they are considered martyrs, three decades before Stephen the deacon, whose feast we celebrated two days ago. Of course, Jesus Christ himself would one day die for them, and for all of us.

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