Rachel Weeping

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Christ is Born!

Here’s a comment about our daily devotionals we received on our 1st Annual Ministry Survey that’s still open till the end of the year (I hope you take the time to help us out): “Always positive messages. Fr. Barnabas is funny.”

Yea, but looks aren’t everything! 🙂

You know, I really do try to make these daily visits compelling and enjoyable. The truth is the message of our Orthodox faith is meant for every man, woman, boy, and girl everywhere and at all times. Orthodoxy is either for everybody or eventually it will belong to nobody! However, this Full, Whole, Complete, Healthy, and truly “Catholic” Faith “once, for all, delivered to the saints” (see Jude 1:3) is so comprehensive that this Faith will always draw us back to very serious and very difficult realities. The miracle of this Faith is that, because of God’s Love for us, this will never be meant to shame or reject anyone! But that doesn’t mean that this Faith, this Way of Life won’t be (and often is) quite uncomfortable no matter how “funny” Fr. Barnabas is!

Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Matthew 2:13-23:

When the wise men departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaos reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.

 The Gospel doesn’t try to hide this horrible scene from us! The ancient prophecy of Jeremiah comes true in Herod’s delusional slaughter of the innocence in an attempt to kill Jesus. And Herod’s delusion understands that this Child spells the destruction of Herod’s delusion that he is king. What are we to make of this slaughter, this unthinkable evil? Why is this here? Why does the Church wish us to retain such a nightmare in our memories?

First, we are called to remember so that we won’t repeat! The famous saying concerning the Jewish Holocaust is “Never Again.” And yet, the more we humans have learned about life, the more we’ve expanded technology, medicine, and prenatal skill, we still allow a philosophy of human autonomy that places personal preference over life. The Orthodox Faith is clear since the beginning: Personhood begins at conception. Period. No wonder Rachel weeps.

Next, we are called to remember so that we won’t forget! It is short sightedness that short circuits our spiritual maturity and our spiritual growth. The trap of a human philosophy and society shaped by merely utilitarian aims will always (and I mean “always’) lead to horror and hatred. Always. No matter how smart we get, how advanced our technical skills, how “scientific” we think we are, the Human Person is more than what we can see. If we weren’t more than that, there would be no art, no beauty, no poetry. We are more than what we see!

Today, as we bask in the glow of God Himself choosing, from His Freedom and through His immeasurable power, to sanctify every aspect and moment of human life by taking flesh and passing through every stage of human growth and development, and sanctifying each of those moments, let’s do the very hard work of taking our Faith seriously and, knowing God loves us and will always forgive every sin, let’s winsomely and gently live in such a way we show the world a better way. We are called in 2016 to be Orthodox on Purpose!

 

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