Sin Can’t Win

After the Magi gave homage the infant Jesus, they are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and Joseph is also warned by the Angel of God that the life of Jesus is in jeopardy and that he is to flee immediately to Egypt with Mary and Jesus.

On this Fourth Day of Christmas we reflect on the magnitude of sin and the great lengths one may go in pursuit of pride, prestige, and power. King Herod was threatened by the presence of the baby Jesus, knowing that the prophecies about him might be true, so “when Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.” (NAB, MT 2:16) In a most horrific act of evil, Herod slaughtered these innocent babies, yet unbeknownst to himself, he was also fulfilling another prophecy about the coming Messiah.

While it is uncertain how many children were murdered in Bethlehem, we remember that they died at the hands of a paranoid and evil ruler strictly because of Christ. Furthermore, the suffering experienced by the families of these innocents would continue for generations. Sin is never isolated and individual. We are communal by nature, and our sins, although we think of them as quiet and private, never really are. God triumphs here. After the death of Herod, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph returned to the Promised Land from Egypt, just as God had brought his Chosen People to the Promised Land from the slavery of Egypt generations earlier.

Sin continues to impact all of us, even sins of generations past, but sin has no power over God, and his love will not be shut out. Jesus, our innocent Savior, will also experience the full force of sin at his Passion, but once again, he will demonstrate his power over this world and its evils through his Resurrection and Ascension. We are called to trust God, knowing that he is in control, even in the darkest moments of life.

Father, allow me to trust you. Help me to see that where sin abounds, your love is present all the more, and that all things, even evil ones, will work out for your glory since nothing can overcome your love. Increase my faith in you, Jesus. Amen.

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Do Not Fear the End

The Gospel of Luke (21:5-11) describes a scene when many people had gathered near the Jerusalem Temple, and were admiring its grand beauty.  Jesus uses the moment to prophesy about the future destruction of the temple, when “there will not be left a stone upon another stone….” (NAB, LK 21:5) He then goes on to describe what is to be expected before the end, when the final judgment comes. Revelation adds light to when this will happen and describes the occasion of that final gathering of the faithful as when “the time to reap has come, because the earth’s harvest is fully ripe.” (RV 14:15) Jesus provides an incredible and terrifying list of signaling events: wars, famines, destruction, plagues, insurrections, and a host of natural disasters.

Knowing all this is to come, however, Jesus lovingly reminds us, “Do not be terrified.” (21:9) It is a constant theme in Scripture: “Do not be afraid.” Various biblical translators indicate that the phrase “do not be afraid,” or some rendition or form of it, occurs about 365 times in the Bible! Perhaps God wanted to give us a daily reminder to not fear the things of this world, to remember that we belong to a family and a Kingdom that will never die and will never end. It seems reasonable for us to be fearful when the world is in such turmoil, with violence, injustice, and death at every corner, but we have a surpassing force in Jesus Christ that is greater than any power, principality, authority, or dominion on earth.

Father, strengthen my faith in your Son, Jesus Christ. Give me the power and light of your Holy Spirit to see beyond the darkness of this world, to know that you are always here, that you are always in control, and that you always love me with an incomprehensible love, a love through which only an infinitely merciful and just God can overcome the evils of this world. Amen.

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