Daily Reading & Meditation

Saturday (December 28): "Rachel weeping for her children"

Scripture: Matthew 2:13-18

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and  flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son." 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."

Meditation: Who can explain suffering, especially the suffering of innocent children? Herod's massacre of children who gave their lives for a person and a truth they did not know seemed so useless and unjust. What a scandal and stumbling block for those who can't recognize God's redeeming love. Why couldn't God prevent this slaughter? Suffering is indeed a mystery. No explanation seems to satisfy our human craving to understand. What does Paul the Apostle mean when he says: We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called to his purpose (Romans 8:28)?  These innocent children and their parents suffered for Christ.

Suffering, persecution, and martyrdom are the lot of all who chose to follow Jesus Christ. There is no crown without the cross. It was through Jesus' suffering, humiliation, and death on a cross, that our salvation was won. His death won life - eternal life for us. And his blood which was shed for our sake obtained pardon and reconciliation with our heavenly Father.

Suffering takes many forms: illness, disease, handicap, physical pain and emotional trauma, slander, abuse, poverty, and injustice. Jesus exclaimed that those who weep, who are reviled and persecuted for righteousness sake are blessed (Matthew 5:10-12). The word blessed [makarios in the Greek] literally means happiness or beatitude. It describes a kind of joy which is serene and untouchable, self-contained and independent from chance and changing circumstances of life.

There is a certain paradox for those blessed by the Lord. Mary was given the blessedness of being the mother of the Son of God. That blessedness also would become a sword which pierced her heart as her Son died upon the cross. She received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. But her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and his promises. Jesus promised his disciples that "no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22). The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain and which neither life nor death can take away. Do you know the joy of a life fully surrendered to God with faith and trust?

"Lord Jesus, you gave your life for my sake, to redeem me from slavery to sin and death.  Help me to carry my cross with joy that I may willingly do your will and not shrink back out of fear or cowardice when trouble besets me."

Psalm 124:2-5,7-8

2 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us,
3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;
4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;
5 then over us would have gone the raging waters.
7 We have escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The devil foresaw the future of Christ, by Peter Chrysologus (400-450 AD)

"Was it Herod seeking the child, or the devil working through Herod? When Herod saw the magi for himself, he imagined in his fantasy that they had fled their governors. For Christ, though bound in swaddling clothes, though busy at his motherís breast, though keeping quiet, concealing his words, unable to walk, nevertheless transformed the magi (who had been standard-bearers of the devil) into his most faithful servants. The devil instantly realized what Christ could do when he came of age. So he spurred the Jews against him and, clever contriver that he was, impelled Herod that he might get the jump on Christ in his infancy. He hoped to deprive him of the coming emblem of his virtue, the cross, the banner of the greatest victory for us. The devil perceived that Christ would soon be restoring life to all the world with his teaching and his virtue. Even while still whimpering as a baby, Jesus was taking possession of this world from top to bottom. It was as the prophet said: 'Before the child knows to cry to his father and mother he shall take the pride of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria' (Isaiah 8:4). The Jews themselves attest to this when they say, 'You see how the whole world hastens after him' (John 12:19)." (excerpt from SERMONS 150.9)

[Peter Chrysologus, 400-450 AD, was a renowned preacher and bishop of Ravena in the 5th century]


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author Don Schwager © 2014 Servants of the Word

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.  

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