By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
In these days we experience the love of Christmas, which gradually draws us to the source of Christian joy. We are called to foster this joy among our relatives, friends and neighbors. It is important that we do not let ourselves be robbed of this joy.
Christmas is also accompanied by tears. The Evangelists did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive. They relate the birth of the Son of God as an event full of tragedy and grief. Quoting the prophet Jeremiah, Matthew presents it in the bluntest way: “A voice is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children” (2,18). It is the sobbing of mothers mourning the death of their children in the face of Herod’s thirst for power. Today too, we hear this touching cry of pain, which we neither desire to ignore or to silence. In our world we continue to hear the lamentation of so many mothers, for the death of their children, their innocent children.
To contemplate the manger also means to contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be open to the pain of our neighbors, especially where children are involved. It also means realizing that a sad chapter in history is still being written today. Can we truly experience Christian joy if we turn our backs on these realities? Can Christian joy even exist if we ignore the cry of our brothers and sisters, the cry of the children?
St. Joseph faced the atrocious crimes that were taking place. St. Joseph, the model of an obedient and loyal man, was capable of recognizing God’s voice and the mission entrusted to him by the Father. Because he was able to hear God’s voice, and was docile to His will, Joseph became more conscious of what was going on around him and was able to interpret these events realistically.
The same thing is asked of us today: to be attentive, and not deaf, to the voice of God, and therefore more sensitive to what is happening all around us. Today, with St. Joseph as our model, we are asked not to let ourselves be robbed of joy. We are asked to protect this joy from the Herods of our own time. Like Joseph, we need the courage to respond to this reality, to arise and take it firmly in hand. The courage to guard this joy from the predators of our time, who devour the innocence of our children. Innocence robbed from them by the oppression of illegal slave labor, prostitution and exploitation. Thousands of our children have fallen into the hands of gangs, criminal organizations and merchants of death. We hear these children and their cries of pain; we also hear the cry of the Church, our Mother, who weeps for the pain caused to her youngest sons and daughters. Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, let us renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect the lives of our children in every way, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, we support, clearly and faithfully, zero tolerance.
Christian joy does not arise on the fringes of reality, by ignoring it or acting as if it did not exist. Christian joy is born from a call to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day. Christmas is a time that challenges us to protect life, to help it be born and grow. It is a time that challenges us to find new courage. The courage that generates ways capable of acknowledging the reality that many of our children are experiencing today, and working to ensure them the bare minimum needed so that their dignity as God’s children will not only be respected but, above all, defended.
Let us not allow them to be robbed of joy. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of joy, but guard it and nourish its growth.
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC