Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Holy Innocents of Bethlehem

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Innocents, the children killed by Herod in Bethlehem. He feared that the new–born King of the Jews would overthrow his regime and so he used the means he knew – violence, the killing of innocents.

So many innocents have died over the years – victims of tyrants, victims of war. Why?

They threaten the powers that be or, as Robert Ellsberg puts it in  All Saints: Daily Reflection on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time:
They were killed by the same interests that would later conspire in the death of Jesus and for the same reasons—to stifle from birth any hope that the world might be changed.
But the hope generated by a God become a poor child cannot be squelched.

In 2004 I had the chance to visit the Holy Land, hosted by a friend who was volunteering there with the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.  Because a faculty member of the Christian Brothers’ Bethlehem University was a graduate of Iowa State, I got a tour of the campus where Christians and Muslims study together.

The chapel is devoted to the Holy Innocents. As we entered I saw incredible paintings of children around the chapel. Brother told me that the painter used the faces of children of Bethlehem for the images and that now some of them can come and see their faces on the chapel walls.

But Bethlehem and the Palestinian territories are still places of pain. But may they become places of hope.

Here too in Honduras the innocent suffer - from hunger, oppression, and violence. Yet there are seeds of hope, especially among the poor. May those seeds take root and grow into a harvest of hope and justice.

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