In between the joys of Christmas and New Year’s Day, the Church offers us a reminder of the suffering that can be caused by fear.
On December 28, the Church celebrated the feast of the Holy Innocents. These young infants are honored as the first martyrs for Christ, witnesses to the Light. The Gospel reading for the day reminds us of King Herod’s fury when he realized that he had been deceived by the magi. “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” (Matthew 2:16).
Herod was motivated by intense fear and desperation, which lead him to destroy others to preserve his position and protect his throne. So often today fear motivates terrible decisions, adding to the culture of death in which we find ourselves. Our culture tends to disregard hope while overemphasizing every fear to the extent that death is seen as the answer to many difficult human struggles.
Death is promoted as the answer to a difficult pregnancy. Death is often the response to an imperfect unborn child or an unhealthy newborn. Death is an accepted solution for persons who are sick, elderly, disabled, unwanted or abandoned. Death is legitimized for those in prison; and an expedited death is recommended for those near the end of their lives — and even for those who are simply depressed.
But as the feast day reading reminds us, “This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). While God came into the world to overcome the darkness of sin and death, each of us must chose daily to trust in His providence and to walk in the light. And we have a profound obligation to help others see that light when all they envision is darkness.
An abandoned mother facing a crisis pregnancy can be overcome with fear. Expectant parents of a child with a serious health challenge can be terrified of what their child may have to endure. Patients facing a debilitating disease may fear losing all control. Those near death may fear they are a burden to their loved ones. In every case, we as Christians are called upon to help those in fear step into the light. Our words, prayers, sacrifices and actions can give great courage and assurance to those who may otherwise become casualties of the culture of death.
At this time of year when many of us resolve to change our behaviors for the better, let us prayerfully consider how we might personally reach out to those around us overcome by fear. It takes sacrifice to care for the dying, to minister to the sick, and to offer hope to a frightened, pregnant teen. It takes sacrifice to pray outside of an abortion center, to visit those in prison, and to assist a family caring for a loved one with a disability. Let us be inspired by the example of so many Christians throughout the centuries, who resolved to give up their comfort, their livelihoods — and sometimes their very lives — to be witnesses to the Light for others.
LifeNews.com Note: Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.