Take the child and flee….” (Matt 2:13).
It will not be difficult for preachers to bring today’s feast to the reality of loss this year. So many innocents, taken from us not just in high profile school shootings, but also in the steady attrition of young people being killed in the war zones of our major cities, gunned down in lethal confrontations over turf, drugs and the simple inability to communicate.
The very presence of the infant Jesus, a perceived threat to royal succession, brought a wave of violence to the neighborhood he fled with his parents just ahead of Herod’s henchmen, sent to slaughter every male child two years or younger. What a shocking burden for the Holy Family in their flight to Egypt. The sword of sorrow Simeon foretold to Mary in the Temple was first wielded against other mothers and their babies in Bethlehem. Matthew quotes Jeremiah 31:15, “A voice was heard in Rama, wailing and loud laments; it was Rachel weeping for her children and refusing all consolation, because they were no more.”
Death brings a moment of clarity that must be seized. Fundamental change must happen to break the pattern of violence at the source, where so many causes conspire to create and nurture violence in the heart. Easy access to weapons and the unchallenged notion that force is the way to solve problems are only the final steps in a process that culminates in pulling the trigger.
Indignation, it has been said, is the strongest form of love. What will it take to break the cycle before more innocents are slaughtered? Now is the time to act.