Today is the third of a triduum of feasts, three days following Christmas (unless Holy Family Sunday intervenes as happened yesterday). I learned this calendar early – somewhere in elementary school, I’m sure – because of their proximity to Christmas and I always thought it an unfortunate choice on the part of the Church. The feast of St. John the Evangelist (12/27) is fine but the other two seem out of place in this season of peace and good feeling. First (12/26) we hear the story of the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr, and today (12/28) the gospel of Matthew recounts the “massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under” by Herod because the Magi had failed to report to him where they had found Jesus, whom Herod wished to destroy. All those innocent children, slaughtered for no reason other than a king’s hubris and fear for loss of his earthly power!
My reflections stray from Herod but remain with all the innocent children killed in our time by violence, either targeted or randomly, or through neglect. The numbers are staggering in the USA and even more horrific in countries where famine and war know no exceptions in the age of victims. Clearly, dark and light exist together in our lives. Sorrow and joy are not mutually exclusive. How is it then that we can maintain our equilibrium? Surely, ignoring the darkness is no solution; it only leads us deeper into the isolation of futility. Thinking like this always reminds me of the slogan, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” So today, I will consider what I can do to alleviate something of the distress of children either in my community or somewhere in the world. The possibilities are endless and include donations to organizations like Free the Children, Doctors Without Borders, and Bread for the World, volunteering at our local soup kitchen, shopping for our local food bank or writing to political leaders about changing the gun laws. I cannot forget the value of taking opportunities to be kind and encouraging to children of all ages and most of all to pray for them every day. They are our hope; let us be theirs.