Reflection for Monday, December 28, 2020: The Feast of the Holy Innocents.

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Cherney, Mike
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|The passage from John's first letter considers sin and contrition. The psalm, which uses the image of a bird rescued from a snare, serves as reminder of past deliverance and hope for the future. The Gospel recounts the story of the massacre of infant boys in an effort to eliminate the young Jesus.|In the Gospel, Jesus was rescued from Herod's "snare." Still, this left Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in Egypt. I can imagine the eventual migration of Jesus' family to Nazareth being a sort of new Exodus from Egypt. Growing up in the United States, I had always pictured the Holy Family as a sort of "Pilgrim people" out of a romanticized sense of American history. It was not until recent years that my image changed to embrace seeing the Holy Family as migrant refugees. (At the same time my image of the Pilgrims began to include their hardships as migrant refugees.)|My wife and I rode out the first wave of the pandemic choosing to isolate with our oldest son, his wife and their twin 2-year-olds. This time served as a reminder of the fragility of our existence and the concern for the health and safety of young children.|The Holy Innocents prompt me to think back to my first years in Catholic grade school. These were the years of my First Confession and First Communion. Given my understanding of sin and martyrdom at that time, I would imagine how wonderful it would be if I were a martyr. It looked like a real shortcut to heaven. With time my understanding of sin, death and heaven would all change profoundly.|Of the readings today, it was John's Epistle that really struck a chord with me. Being mostly retired, I have had time to reflect back on my life. I realized how difficult a person I was starting in my early childhood. I feel that the gift of God's forgiveness involves first recognizing that a problem exists, and that I am its source. I reflect back on how many times I caused people hurt and suffering not realizing that much of the problem was me (rather than them). Perhaps this sin was pride in its worst form, self-justification. These days instead of focusing on thoughts of rewards or punishments (heaven or hell), I see sin as that which separates me from my God and my community.|By chance in a recent sermon, I was redirected to the book God of Surprises written 35 years ago by Gerald Hughs, SJ, a book which I had started and then left on my shelf for months. In the chapter titled Changing Direction, he presents views of sin and repentance that I feel have enduring relevance. He parallels the warnings of today's Epistle. He concludes the chapter contrasting the marks of true and false repentance. I base my prayer today on some of these insights.|Dear Lord,|Unshackle me from the false security of the defenses that I build around myself.|Give me the openness to trust in God's goodness.|Grant me the courage to acknowledge my shortcomings and avoid judging others.|Allow me to welcome criticism and learn from it.|Help me to feel drawn to God, rather than feeling driven by God.|Free me from rigidity of mind and heart.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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