Where can we find hope in the face of the millions of children that have been aborted (over a billion worldwide) since this infamous day 42 years ago?
have been given the opportunity to reflect on martyrdom of the young and
innocent. Even within the Octave feast days
of Christmas, the time of glorious celebration of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us as Emmanuel, God With us, the Church takes time to recognize and honor
the deaths of the Holy Innocents. The young boys, whom, King Herod slaughtered
in his jealous rage of the newborn king, Jesus, Who is, in tragic irony, The Prince of Peace, and Who sought
no earthly crown or throne.
well over a millennium, the Church has remembered. And together with and in our priests, we have asked for a share in her fellowship in
the first Eucharistic prayer (the Roman Canon). Agnes, a young beautiful girl of 12 was martyred by the sword in the year 304 AD because she loved Jesus more than her
earthly life. What meaning can we find in contemplating her death in light of the millions of innocents who have died — because there are no coincidences in God’s sight and nothing escapes His notice, so we must be called to consider the providential placement of Agnes’ feast on January 21st, the
day before the infamous and tragic Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized
the slaughter of unborn children. Their deaths have been estimated to number 57,553,161 abortions in the US since 1973, and 1,322,248,989 since 1980 worldwide. Eerily, these
numbers continued to climb even as I tried to write them down, as abortions number by the
thousands each day based on government
health organizations and Guttmacher Institute data!
days of innocents being slaughtered no longer exist. But these numbers of abortions, so large they
are hard to say out loud, let alone fathom — perhaps it would be good to go back and reread these numbers and say them out loud now — they beg us to live in awareness of this reality that often goes unnoticed. It is easy to push these children out of our
minds because their deaths are unseen and unheard.
their deaths became more real than ever before to me. It was when I was praying
and seeking to offer sidewalk counseling outside the abortion clinic in our
community. Each week I witnessed the
smoke rising from the center’s crematorium. When I realized it was the smoke of the children who had been aborted…. When I saw this tangible sign of their
demise… when I could smell the scent of their remains, and see the
smoke rising from the chimney as hundreds of cars sped by mindlessly and
heedlessly of the tragedy going on in our midst — it shook me to the
abortion clinic week after week, praying and hoping to provide a compassionate voice of love and mercy and concrete help to those who entered, (and who are really
victims, also, of this unseen and unknown slaughter taking place),
continue this silent vigil each week in the midst of this over-arching evil that I knew wanted to permeate me and all that was good.
that caused these murders like I never had before…
of the smoke that rises up like incense before the throne of God. It comes from
Rev. 8:4-5 and reads like this:
altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to
offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was
before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with
the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel.”
the last word. What Satan means for our
harm, God can redeem and turn to our good. While the death of those babies are tragic and must be abhorred, they are rising up into the heavens and are now in the hand of
God, where they are embraced in a beauty and glory beyond our capacity to fathom let alone describe. And they are free from pain, for they live where there is “no
more suffering, no more tears, no more sadness.”
won when he instigated and orchestrated the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus, we know that his “victory” was in reality the final blow to his power over sin and death. In Jesus’ resurrection, we are given the
opportunity to live in heavenly glory and love unimaginable. These children’s sacrifices are still reprehensible
and must be addressed, fought against with Truth and Love, but we also must never lose sight that their sacrifice (and ours) is being turned into glory. Even to realizing that their lives of sacrifice are an on-going prayer
of incense rising before God, pleading for us!
in the Cross of Christ, which seems pure foolishness to unbelievers, but our
faith assures us, it is really “the very power of God and the wisdom of God!”cf 1 Cor 1: 24
after this, the bloodiest of centuries, during which more Christians have been
martyred than all the previous centuries combined???
thoughts. As high as the heavens are
above the earth, are God’s thoughts above our own”cf. Isaiah 55: 8-9.
not something one wants to linger upon too deeply. It is too hard to fathom, to stomach, to
innocent… seem to contradict the horror of her murder and the horror of what we rise up against today. But, are they really contradictory? If we truly believe in the resurrection of
Jesus from the dead and the glory that awaits us after death – while her death is
still something to abhor, is it also a sign of victory
“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” 2 Cor 4: 17.
Church annually uses her feast day as a day of offering lambs to the Pope to
be blessed. The lamb’s wool will be made into the pallium given to archbishops as a
sign of their unity not only to the Pope, but to the Lamb of God, Whom they
worship and are called to imitate in His total self-sacrificial love of the
Father and His people.
history — beginning perhaps with the sacrifice of Abel — and continued in the Passover worship, which symbolized and pointed to the One Sacrificial Lamb and Son of God. At that first Passover, the lambs had to be unblemished, year old
males that were offered up in sacrifice. Their flesh had to be eaten and their blood placed on the doorposts of the Hebrews’ dwelling, which saved them from the angel of death that struck all the Egyptian firstborn. This Passover was to be immortalized in liturgy as it was recognized to be a sign of the everlasting covenant of God’s love and saving power, which enabled God’s people to be set free from slavery and live in freedom.
True Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God, Who sacrificed Himself to free us from the slavery of sin and death and revealed Himself to us in the Last
Supper as True Food and Drink, so He could not only nourish us with His Heavenly life, but be ONE with us unto
the end of time. And so, likewise, he commanded that His ultimate sacrifice be immortalized in an ETERNAL and everlasting liturgy:
“Take this all of you and eat this …. This is My Body… Drink this… The blood of the new and eternal covenant. Do this in memory of me!”
and those of the martyrs are caught up in union with His life
they are ONE with Him
and as they
died with Him. so also they will rise with Him.
image St. John saw in his Revelation, the Conqueror of sin and death and One with the Father in heavenly splendor. The same Jesus Whom he first recognized and followed, which was pointed out to us in last Sunday’s Gospel, (the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time) when the Baptist proclaimed Jesus to his disciples, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” Jn 1: 35.
we call to mind Jesus
in the Eucharist
is the Lamb of God,
sins of the world
grant us mercy
grant us peace.
There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Though she could scarcely receive the blow, she could rise superior to it. Girls of her age cannot bear even their parents’ frowns and, pricked by a needle, weep as for a serious wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She stands undaunted by heavy, clanking chains. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.
A new kind of martyrdom! Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr’s crown; unfitted for the contest, yet effortless in victory, she shows herself a master in valor despite the handicap of youth. As a bride she would not be hastening to join her husband with the same joy she shows as a virgin on her way to punishment, crowned not with flowers but with holiness of life, adorned not with braided hair but with Christ himself.
In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. The crowds marvel at her recklessness in throwing away her life untasted, as if she had already lived life to the full. All are amazed that one not yet of legal age can give her testimony to God. So she succeeds in convincing others of her testimony about God, though her testimony in human affairs could not yet be accepted. What is beyond the power of nature, they argue, must come from its creator.
What menaces there were from the executioner, to frighten her; what promises made, to win her over; what influential people desired her in marriage! She answered: “To hope that any other will please me does wrong to my Spouse. I will be his who first chose me for himself. Executioner, why do you delay? If eyes that I do not want can desire this body, then let it perish.” She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck.
You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned; his right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and to religion; Agnes preserved her virginity, and gained a martyr’s crown.
with the LOVE of Jesus, of God – exchanging this shadow world that is so filled
with wonders, for one that we can never fathom its incomparable glory, for “eye
has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love Him” (cf. 1 Cor. 2: 9).
so unimaginably throughout the world, we must remember they do take comfort in the God, Who is With Us! He, who loves us so much that He became man to reveal Himself to us, so we can know that He continues to be with us in every trial, in every cross, in every martyrdom.
Jesus continues to share with us His One, Eternal and Living Sacrifice…
and in that Sacrifice, He tells us:
we are never alone.
“As it is written:“For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8: 36-39.
purity, blinding those who dared to looked on her lustfully… and giving her
courage beyond her years to face death in order to live on high with You. How filled with faith she must have been! The stories vary, some saying her hair grew
to cover her nakedness, some say the fire would not harm her when they tied her to the stake to be burned, yet all agree she died by the sword.
regardless if she felt it perceptively.
brutal rage, greed, lust and savagery into a glorious victory. Historians speak of Agnes’ death as a turning
point – saying it changed the hearts of the Romans, so that they became
sensitized to the suffering Christians and that it was through seeing the
brutality of the beautiful young girl’s suffering (which became so widely
and quickly known and spoken about) that eventually the widespread Christian persecutions unleashed by the Roman empire ceased. Nine years later, the Roman emperor himself issued the Edict of Milan in 313AD, which called for the end to Christian persecution by the Romans. And Constantine’s own daughter, Constantina, would be cured from leprosy after praying at Agnes’
grave –and afterward, she constructed a church on top of her place of martyrdom, so
that all could come and honor her courage and her assured place in heaven.
encourage us, to fill us with faith.
Thank You for continually being with us, whether we feel it or not. O dear Lord, help us to be Your hands and
feet in our world – doing all for your glory.
Courageously and fearlessly living and working in love for the least of
these – the suffering and dying innocents –whom You hold in Your hands and Who You Are!
unborn, all the persecuted and martyred children throughout the world, knowing that You cry tears of pain for their suffering more than
we ever could.
old — to stake our lives on You and Your Truth. Help us to die willingly out of
love for You, and fill us with the wisdom to know what to speak and what
to do in the face of such tragedy and unbelief that surrounds us. Help us to love You in the least of these.