Rachel Still Weeps

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

December 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, John tells us a hard truth:

If we say, “We are without sin,”
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.


As I read the Gospel account of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, John’s words pummel me, as do the images we view routinely on the evening news:

  • toddlers caged on the US-Mexico border
  • infants lying dead on Syrian and Kurdish hillsides
  • kindergarteners bulleted by AK47s
  • youngsters trafficked to the rich and powerful
  • children of color victimized by prejudice
  • acolytes defiled by their priests
  • students lunch-shamed for their poverty
  • kids bullied for their differences
  • hungry babies cut from assistance to fund military excess

In today’s world, so bereft of social justice and moral policy, we don’t have to read the Gospel to find the Holy Innocents. They are staring us, teary-eyed, right in our faces!

This morning’s is an uncomfortable prayer! What can I do to be sinless in the face of such injustice? What is morally required of me to shed complicity in these outrages?

Like many of you, I feel helpless and overwhelmed at times, just as Herod’s populace must have felt.

But then I remember that I do not live under a “Herod”, unless I passively allow myself to. I can advocate, protest, contribute and most of all VOTE. I can do everything in my power to assure that a moral and rational leadership holds the right to stand for me and for my responsibilities to my sisters and brothers.

Yes, today in our prayer, we may weep like Rachel. But then, let us finish weeping. Let us seek the ways that we can repent any complicit sinfulness. Let us acknowledge and repudiate the normalized culture of war and domination which we have accepted. Let us inform ourselves and act clearly and consistently for merciful justice – for innocent life in all its stages!

Music: Save the Children – Marvin Gaye

The Basket … The Women

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, little Moses is saved from the Pharaoh’s wrath against the Israelites. It is a theme we are familiar with, notably repeated in the New Testament when Herod orders the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. In that event Jesus, like Moses, is spared by clandestine human intervention.

Exodus2_3 basket

The interveners in Exodus are all women – Moses’ mother, sister, Pharaoh’s daughter, and maid. Each of them decides to practice what we, today, call “civil disobedience“ – to stand and act against an immoral government order. Each woman becomes an agent through whom God actualizes the promise of life and freedom. And their choices are interdependent. They need to be a community of holy resistance in order to succeed.

An apt symbol for this agency is the papyrus basket, fortified with bitumen and pitch, and set afloat in the very river where Pharaoh had ordered the babies to be drowned. The basket is reminiscent of Noah’s ark, that vessel which preserved the diversity of life for future generations.

Sadly, history often has repeated the drama in which soulless leaders set a policy to extinguish the innocent. Many perish in that savagery. But many also rise up to bravely weave a “basket” of solidarity and compassion for the persecuted. Even in our own time, we see this story unfolding on the borders of xenophobic nations, whose leaders are indifferent to shaping just and moral policies.

But God is always at work in the world to accomplish the Promise of Life for God’s Creatures. Often, as in the story of infant Moses, God is not named – but rather is  evident as a relentless, compassionate force in the courageous choices of caring human beings.

As we pray today, might we find ourselves somewhere in this story? How might this finding inspire us to be God’s agents for life in our own time?

Video Clip from “The Prince of Egypt” (Lyrics below)

Hush now, my baby. Be still love, don’t cry
Sleep as you’re rocked by the stream
Sleep and remember my last lullaby
So I’ll be with you when you dream
Drift on a river
That flows through my arms
Drift as I’m singing to you

I see you smiling
So peaceful and calm
And holding you, I’m smiling, too
Here in my arms
Safe from all harm
Holding you, I’m smiling, too

Hush now, my baby
Be still, love, don’t cry
Sleep like you’re rocked by the stream
Sleep and remember this river lullaby
So I’ll be with you when you dream
Here in my arms
Safe from all harm
Holding you, I’m smiling, too

Sleep and remember this river lullaby
And I’ll be with you when you dream
Sleep and remember this river lullaby
And I’ll be with you when you dream
And I’ll be with you when you dream

… the children, for God’s sake

Friday, December 28, 2018

Feast of the Holy Innocents

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Jer 31_15 Ramah

Today, in Mercy, we are lifted to Light by John’s sacred words in our first reading:

This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ
and proclaim to you:
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

Simply hearing it, we long to abide in that whole and healing Light.

But then we read our Gospel, among the saddest accounts in all of Scripture – the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Their needless deaths come at the hands of a power-crazed and fearful man.  So hungry for his own aggrandizement, he tries to assure it by killing a generation of children.

It sounds impossible, doesn’t it, that anyone could be so hardened by evil? It sounds impossible that good people would execute this order of a mad man! It sounds impossible that human beings could be so blind to the sanctity of another’s life!

Dear friends, we must confront our own blindness. We must look into the eyes of our 21st century children – the border children, the children of Yemen, Syria, … the children of war, violence, drugs and poverty.

We must hear the cry of God, their Mother, and choose legislators and leaders who will honor life; who will shape global policies and relationships recognizing the common life we share in God – who will make true pro-life choices regarding gun control, arms sales, and an economy of endless war.

Our attitudes, our advocacy and our votes will either condemn or exonerate us when that Great Light ultimately reveals our hearts. When a society’s children become the victims of its indefensible corruption, we must say “Enough!”

Music: The Mediaeval Baebes – Coventry Carol

The “Coventry Carol” is an English Christmas Carol dating from the 16th century. The carol was traditionally performed in Coventry, England as part of a mystery play called “The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors”. The play depicts the Christmas story from chapter two in the Matthew’s Gospel. The carol itself refers to the massacre of the Holy Innocents in which Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed, and takes the form of a lullaby sung by mothers of the doomed children.(Information from Wikipedia)