Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

On Tuesdays many Catholics pray the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. These include the memorable events of Jesus’ passion – his agony in Gethsemane, his being flogged and mocked, his supporting the weight of the cross, and his brutal death. If Christmas falls on a Tuesday, however, the remembrance of Jesus’ ordeal is supposed to give way to the joyful celebration of Jesus’ birth – how the Virgin Mary’s consent to God’s will led to her conceiving, birthing, and raising the Savior. Nevertheless, this year many will feel the need to meditate as usual on his death.

Eleven days ago a young man shot and killed twenty-eight people, twenty of whom were only six and seven years old, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School of Newtown, Connecticut. Although the assassin apparently understood that what he did was wrong since he took his own life, he was almost certainly mentally deranged. He also seems to have had a vendetta against his mother, a divorced woman, who tried to care for him. The murders have invoke the disturbing question of what it means to have “the Savior of the world” in our midst when human tragedies such as the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary happen with increasing regularity.

Perhaps such catastrophes are evidence that people have rejected Jesus’ teachings on love and peace. Some will argue that the refusal to ban hand guns signifies a society’s option for violence. Others will say that the core problem is the people’s unwillingness to assist those suffering from mental disease. Still others will insist that if parents were willing to make sacrifices to keep their marriages together, their children would receive all the attention they need. All these explanations for the violence have merit, but there is a more fundamental truth that should be understood.

Evil or, if you wish, the devil is a larger, darker, and more grotesque enemy than we can imagine. It is an inherent condition of the world, and it has perpetrated its contempt for innocence from the beginning. But its days are numbered. Jesus, who took the initiative to challenge evil, has broken its back. Now it can only roam like a rabid dog looking to spread its infection on any and every one before it dies.

We must not let sorrow for the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary smother our joy today. Jesus the Savior has come. His resurrection from the dead has opened the gates of heaven for those innocent people. His sending of the Holy Spirit empowers us to join the struggle against evil. We see him as a defenseless baby at this moment but know that he is our unconquerable leader.