A woman kneels at a memorial near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 16. The community of Newtown and the nation sought answers and comfort after a gunman killed 27 people, including 20 children, in a school shooting tragedy Dec. 14.
CNS photo/Eric Thayer, Reuters
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Christmas is the celebration of an innocent child, something we remember in particular this year after the Dec. 14 killings of children and their teachers in Connecticut.
In response to such an onslaught, we instinctively reach for the symbols and meanings of our faith. President Obama, in his address in Newtown, recited from Scripture how Jesus asked the children to come to him.
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these,” Jesus says in Mark’s Gospel.
The readings from our liturgy this Advent and Christmas season are filled with references to youth and childbirth. We hear how Elizabeth is said to be overwhelmed as her son John, in utero, leaps for joy in the presence of the Christ child in Mary’s womb. This Christmas season we will hear about the struggles of the Holy Family, who had no place at the inn and fled to Egypt to escape bloody persecution.
The Scriptures tell us that childhood has always been filled with wonder and tragedies. We weep with the mothers of the children of the innocents recounted in Matthew’s Gospel, who quotes from Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentations; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.” The same sounds of voices were heard in Newtown, weeping for the 20 children who are no more. But our consolation is that they, too, are joined with the Holy Innocents.
Here in South Jersey, we are no strangers to violence, as our city of Camden experiences a record number of homicides this year. All of them, much like those in Connecticut, were greeted by someone who wept. Together we mourn those children who will no longer leap for joy on Christmas morning, whether in Connecticut or Camden.
I would like to ask our people to pray this year as we gather around Christmas dinner with our families and friends, remembering all those who weep as a result of violence. I would suggest the following prayer:
O Lord, whose ways are beyond understanding,
listen to the prayers of your faithful people:
that those weighed down by grief
at the loss of their children
may find reassurance in your infinite goodness.
Bishop Joseph Galante