Artwork as appeared in recent Maryknoll Magazine on Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Yesterday Sunday was the Feast day of the Holy Family, and of the Holy Innocents also this year, in our Catholic Church calendar. It seems a strange convergence, the new born sacred family and the infant victims of violence. In a time when we decry the demise of the ideal family in our culture, and see family values under threat, we must remember that the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus was also under duress. For their society they were not the ideal family--seen to be in their day, an unwed mother, foster father, bastard child.
The Son of God was born into an unfriendly world, in an occupied country, homeless and displaced by the taxing authority, in a stable. Jesus then barely escaped being one of some hundred Holy Innocents, babies of Bethlehem murdered by the ruthless potentate of His day, King Herod. Soon they had to flee for His life, and became refugees for a while in Egypt. They still made a loving family, deeply blessed in God’s grace. We can be such open, generous, compassionate families too, by accepting God’s grace, and giving of ourselves, following their holy [often contrary to culture] example.
The Martyring of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem
Holiness as brought to us by Jesus, is not a thing of halos and pretty adornments, but of difficult, dreadful, merciful love. The times were hard in zero A.D.; they are now, even in our land of luxury, for many rich and poor—in conflicting ways. We search for a solution, and, as did the Magi, find this One scandalously born into a barn surrounded by animals and shepherds. The Creator of the world made flesh, to become the Savior of all.
Pope Francis in his Christmas Day proclamation said that hope for the poor is crucially linked to changed hearts among the rich. From an AP story: While much of his message concerned poor countries, Francis had harsh words for some in affluent nations. He prayed for an end to the hardened hearts "of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference, the globalization of indifference." Christmas joy will only be realized when weapons are transformed "into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness," Francis concluded before giving the crowd his blessing.
Referring to refugees and exiles, he prayed: "May indifference be changed into closeness, and rejection into hospitality."
We of the most blessed, nation of immigrants, should certainly be receptive to this prayer, on the day celebrating the birth of Our Savior, and be prepared to be leaders in this change.
Illumination by Kathy Brahney