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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Lead Others to Holiness

We receive a stern warning today about personal behavior from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus says, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” (NAB, 17:1-2) How often are we the occasion for someone else’s sin?

Sometimes it can be indirectly, such as, by dressing immodestly or acting provocatively, which can draw others into sin. Frequently, however, we implicate others in sin by participating in sin ourselves. Oftentimes we do so in simple ways, through gossip, for example, when we subtly encourage friends, coworkers, or family members to think, speak, and sometimes even act negatively regarding others. Yet, there are times when we directly involve others in sin and we co-conspire to sin. We encourage others to sin when we knowingly cover up or tolerate their sins, even though they may be illegal or violate established rules. There are also times when we directly involve others in our personal sin, most frequently sins related to sex, money, or power. These sins can be the most difficult to eradicate because they are part of the relationship we’ve established with another, and we value those relationships.

We are called today to examine those areas of our life where we do involve others in sin or when we cause others to sin. Lord, enlighten our minds and hearts to see where we are involved in the means of sin. Give us the courage and determination to change our behavior so that we are no longer a stumbling block for others, but rather, through your grace and according to your will, that we lead others to sanctity. Amen.

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