Each year on December 28, the Church commemorates the massacre of the Holy Innocents. This year the feast day came early. As I listened to reports yesterday of yet another school shooting, I could not help but think of Matthew’s account of a massacre carried out 2,000 years ago as my prayers were joined with so many others in our nation for the families in Connecticut.
Once Herod realized that he had been deceived by the astrologers, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys two years old and under in Bethlehem and its environs, making his calculations on the basis of the date he had learned from the astrologers. What was said through Jeremiah the prophet was then fulfilled: “A cry was heard at Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation: Rachel bewailing her children; no comfort for her, since they are no more.” (Matthew 2: 16-18)
It is difficult to imagine the grief of the families who lost their loved ones in yesterday’s senseless shooting. There are no doubt gifts that will never be opened by lost children who can never be replaced. There will also certainly be those who will celebrate Christmas with a deeper sense of thankfulness for the gift and presence of their loved ones.
Christmas is a celebration of the coming of a savior, one who would help us to overcome the evil of this world. Each year the Church also reminds us of just how serious that evil is with the feast of the Holy Innocents. Yesterday we had an added reminder. Christ continues to invite us to join him in the fight against sin in our world and that fight begins with ourselves. A prayer that is always most helpful to me is one of the preparation prayers for communion in the Eastern Church which says,
I believe and confess, Lord, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first.
My prayers continue to go out to those in Connecticut who mourn their children. My prayer is also that we Christians will continue the hard work of ridding ourselves of sin. Prayer and even the smallest actions of love are powerful weapons in the battle against the evil still present in our world today.