holy innocents

A weekly Rector’s Notes article

This past week has been tough for me. We should be leaping for joy that Christ has come to be with us, God made manifest, amongst us once more. But, I cannot help but feel that joy is lacking in our world, or at the very least, it is hard to hold onto that joy when you hear about what is happening in our world, hear about what is happening in our very own country, in our own backyard.

A child, an innocent child, died late on Christmas Eve while being illegally detained by the United States Government. Why? Because his parents were seeking a better life for him, for their family. Because his parents feared the death and violence that was sure to come in their home country and headed towards America where the promise of opportunity has been our great rallying cry. But also because, our government has decided to prioritize fear, hatred, xenophobia, and cheap political “victories” over the sacred lives of innocent children. It’s honestly surprising that it’s taken this long to see two innocent children die under the care of our government, seeing as how they’ve willingly admitted they’re not even sure how many children have passed through their care (or are even still under detention).

These two deaths this past month have resonated deeply within me. Partly, because I’m an exhausted parent of two young children and I don’t have the emotional stability to absorb as much evil from the world as I used to. Partly, because I get what the parents of these children were hoping for. Who among us wouldn’t try everything in our power to seek a better life for our kids? Who among us wouldn’t scrape, claw, fight, and walk thousands of miles, for the faintest glimmer of a better life for our children?

As these deaths, the deaths of Jakelin Caal Marquin (7 years old) and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez (8 years old) have resonated this past month, and this past week in particular, I was struck by our traditional observance on December 28: The Holy Innocents. On this day, we remember the thousands of children who were slaughtered by Herod as he tried to keep hold of his power by killing anyone who might be the messiah born. Jesus escapes this sure death by being whisked away with Joseph and Mary to Egypt, to live as political refugees in a foreign land, until the time is safe for them to return once more. If the parallels of this story don’t sound familiar to today, try replacing the proper nouns: Jose, Maria, Jesus, USA.

If we refuse to accept the responsibility we have to care for our siblings in Christ, wherever they may come from, then we will continue to prop up the Herods of this current age. When we stand idly by and allow these injustices to continue, we forfeit any right to claim morality in this world. We have to fight back against these injustices and make Christ known again in this world. We pray the words of the collect for the Holy Innocents, and insert our own understandings of today:

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod, the slaughter of Jakelin and Felipe of Guatemala by the United States Government. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants, manipulative bureaucrats, and campaigning politicians, and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

4 thoughts on “holy innocents”

  1. Very well (and courageously) said, Padre! I am reminded of a Maya Angelou quote: “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” Thank you for who you are and what you do.

  2. The current political circumstances in the US concerning children and people who are, by most any measure, refugees, seems to place those of us in the Jesus Movement in a tough place, discernment-wise. On the one hand, we are taught to be circumspect with judgment of others; God will apply the same standards to us when it comes to God’s judgment. On the other hand, it’s our responsibility to advocate for the vulnerable. The dilemma that I see is how can these cruel actions be opposed by Christians without somehow condemning those who implement them?

    1. Thank you for this comment Tom. I think we have to walk the fine line between calling out evil where it exists (including those who are allowing it to happen) and outright condemning others for their actions (or inactions). I hope to straddle that line from time to time and welcome feedback if I venture too far over it.

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