Tuesday, December 28, 2010

When the Innocent Suffer

Today's Feast of the Holly Innocents recalls the terrible massacre ordered by Herod as recorded in Matthew's gospel. Even though they had done no wrong, in an effort to kill the Christ Child, Herod ordered all of the boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and the vicinity to be killed. And by then Joseph had already fled the country with Mary and  Jesus!
We all realize that this was a terrible thing, and the modern-day plague of abortion is often compared to the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. But we must always look to see how scripture applies to our own lives. Since I have never been involved in abortion, what does today's feast say to me personally?
I guess I am challenged to see if innocent people sometimes suffer because of my words or decisions. Whether involving family, friends, co-workers or strangers, how do the things I say and do impact the lives of those around me? It would certainly be very "Herod-like" to think that any decision of mine makes no difference in the lives of others. No matter how personal I believe my decisions to be, or how trivial my words, others can benefit or suffer because  of them. For example: Yesterday was my mother's birthday, and I decided to take here out to dinner. I chose a certain restaurant because she likes it, and I also love the food there. Because of the weather and Christmas Season, there were only a few other people at the restaurant. That simple choice I made impacted the lives of the server and other staff at the restaurant in a big way. Fortunately for them, it was a good impact (I am a generous tipper!). But what about the staff at the other restaurant I was considering? My decision NOT to go there impacted them in a negative way. They were the "innocents" who suffered in a small way by my decision.
Now this may not have changed anyone's life, but it did make a difference. We cannot and should not agonize over each and every decision we make, but certainly there are times when we need to think about the consequences of our decisions. If we blithely go through life thinking only of ourselves, we fail to realize our importance in God's plan. A word or gesture from you or I may be exactly what God wants to use to change someone's life. But the devil also wants to use them to impact someone in a negative way. Today we ask God to help us think before we speak or act, so we can try and prevent anyone from becoming a "wholly innocent" person who suffers because of us.

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