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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Holy Innocents, the Sanctity of Life and Contemplation

The joy of Christmas unveils the abuse of power, disrespect for life and irrational fear of every age. The Christ-child always comes with blessings of peace, but governmental abuse of power plot against Him and our hatred toward life is continually unmasked. There have always been pharaohs and kings who have shed innocent blood. God is never indifferent. The violence that we neglect is the evil that He wages war against. Prayer cannot be indifferent to this spiritual reality: the innocents massacred by Herod speak to us through the innocents murdered in abortion - prayer helps us hear this voice.


As was the case with Herod, the blood on our hands reveals the extent of our resistance to the Lord of Life. Our own governments are no more righteous than was his. Our fears and fury not any less than his. Our abuse of power no less grave than his. Our sin is greater because he only violated a village, we have desecrated motherhood itself, making pregnancy the most dangerous time of a baby's life in our society. If Herod made holy Bethlehem a place of wailing and oppression, our judiciaries and legislative bodies have made the life-bearing womb a place of death and political opportunism. How do we rediscover our humanity after we have indulged the inhumane? In prayer's determination, it knows that we may drive the Lord of Righteousness into exile from our hearts, but He bides His time and waits to do battle on His timetable, not ours. We might cast around violently, but His saving presence returns at His own good pleasure. Prayer that does not give up hope knows how the Christ-child vanquishes our hostility and lays siege until we open the gates. If our hearts are hardened and we do not know how to trust, prayer can be a school of trust and vulnerability before the Lord. In prayer's confidence, it knows by His purity, He returns to free us from our lust for power, pleasure and possessions. By His gentleness, He enters our hearts to liberate us from our gluttonous attachments to rancor and wrath. By His humility, He undoes our pride. If bitterness and anxiety have robbed us of peace before God and our neighbors, prayer is the treasury of patient endurance that attains all things. In the patience of prayer, our secret mean-spirited judgments will be unmasked so that we might beg to be freed from them. The murder and adultery that live in our hearts will be unveiled so that we might repent. The greed and envy that we plow will be uncovered so that we might try another yoke and a lighter burden. If anger, cruelty, and vengefulness imprison us, the patient kindness of the Lord works to liberate us in prayer. What social or psychological power can stop Him? Herod's massacre, the blood of abortion, and other crimes against humanity do not stop the saving mission of the Messiah. For the Anointed One of Israel and the Savior of the Nations is not thwarted by malice of any kind. Nothing can resist His power. The Risen Lord knows the immensity of the love of the Father is an abyss much deeper and more powerful than the abyss of misery we have made. His saving presence communicates this conviction when we avail ourselves to its silent splendors. In personal and intimate ways, He speaks in silences to the humbled heart, piercing through our indifference and giving us real power and strength to begin again. In such prayer, the desire to do penance is born and pathways of restitution opened that were previously impossible to find. Peace and joy are born even when all seemed lifeless. In all this, prayer is amazed over how much more powerful is His love than the evil we have done. No matter the sin, whether personal or societal, His mercy heals -- if only we are determined, confident and patient with Him.

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