|St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour|
Holy Redeemer In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order Homily,
29th December 2013, First Sunday after Christmas, delivered by Br Simeon EFO.
Gospel: Matthew 2:13-23
"Where is God Now? ”
The Gospel reading this day after Christmas strikes a new tone for the season by dramatically leading us away from anticipation of Advent and revelry of the holidays to the tenuous and dark days between promises and their fruition. Threats abound, but God carefully orchestrates Jesus' earliest days according to Matthew.
Though as an infant Jesus cannot act in his own defence, God's steady protection and Joseph's faithful obedience combine to ensure his safety in a world of danger. Even as potential disaster threatens Jesus, ancient prophecies come to life and guarantee Jesus' ineluctable mission.
You have to hand it to Matthew in the way he balances a sense of wonder for the coming of Jesus with the grimmer bits. First we have the angels, the shepherds and even the wise men and a guiding star…a good story, filled with awe and wonder and even with a touch of magic.
Then suddenly Matthew switches the mood of his story from pure wonder to pure horror. Herod is furious. Learning that he has been tricked by the wise men, who, despite their previous promise, evidently have no intention of coming back with information about a potential king being born in the area, Herod now in effect throws his toys. He flies into a rage and sends his soldiers to kill all young male infants in the neighbourhood. Joseph and Mary are warned and flee with the baby Jesus to Egypt.
Eli Wiesel was a noble prize winning author and a survivor of the concentration camp Auschwitz. In the book Night, he tells of his experiences in the concentration camps. In one chapter of Night he tells of witnessing the hanging of three men.
These men had been part of an underground resistance and had been captured. One of the three men was nothing but a boy. When they were hanged the two large men died instantly but the boy because of his light weight suffered terribly as he slowly choked to death. The prisoners in Auschwitz were made to watch the execution. And through it all a man behind Eli Wiesel asked out loud, "Where is God now?" And as the boy suffered he asked, "Where is God now. Where is he?"
The man was not asking for God's geographical location. He was expressing an unutterable frustration and feeling that God had abandoned them. Here was a young man, a boy, who had risked his life to save other people. How could God let these Nazis torture him? They were God's chosen people, and yet this was happening. Had God forgotten them? Where was God anyway?
We are all familiar with the story of the Three Kings. Those three wise men who follow a star to Bethlehem to worship the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ. But right on its heels is another story that is tragic and disturbing. King Herod in his evil love of power plots to kill this baby born King of the Jews. At first he plans to use the wise men to find Jesus and murder him. But the wise men are warned by God in a dream not to tell Herod but to go home another way. When Herod realised he has been tricked he ordered all the children killed who are two years old or under killed.
He didn't conduct a house to house search to find the one baby he wanted dead. He didn't order all the boys killed. He ordered all the children killed. But God warned Joseph in a dream and Joseph fled to Egypt thus fulfilling other prophesies. Jesus was spared from this attempt on his life. Jesus was destined to die, but this was not the right time. So God intervened allowing Jesus to grow up and be revealed through his earthly ministry. The powers of evil tried to kill the Messiah before his time but God miraculously intervened. Isn't that just wonderful! God intervenes to save the Messiah while hundreds of other innocent children die. I don't know about you but there is a part of me that asks, "What about these children?" What about their parents and grandparents - their brothers and sisters? What about these suffering people? Its fine that God intervened to save one baby boy, but why didn't God intervene to save these hundreds of others.
Where was God in this!? I am not the first to ask this question. Christians before have asked this same question and arrived at different answers. The ancient Christians gave special honour to these children. This event was called the "slaughter of the innocents." And because these children had died while Jesus escaped, they reasoned that these children were in a sense the first Christian martyrs and that they went straight to heaven and have a special place in God's kingdom.
Where is God Now? Perhaps I have over looked a very important part of this story. This story is, after all, about Jesus, Emmanuel - "God with us." Jesus is at the centre of this story. So where is God in the slaughter of the innocents.
Well, God was right there, in the middle of it. God was and is where ever people are suffering. Isn't that what the Christmas story is all about. God the Almighty came into the midst of our suffering and pain to bring comfort and salvation and to hang on a tree. Where is God now as thousands die in wars and or poverty. God is there with them. Where is God Now?
We often look for God in the beautiful and pure. We look for God in decorated churches and fancy sanctuaries. And God is here because God is everywhere. In the Christmas season we look for God in fancy decorations, gold and silver objects, decorative candles. But today's Gospel reading tells us of another place to look. ``-If you want to find God, look for pain and suffering.
If you really want to find out where God is go to the slums, he is there. Go to the AIDS wards and cancer wards; God is there. Go to the war torn parts of the world where children are being slaughtered. And you will find God there. Oh, you won't see God at first, but through Christ and the Holy Spirit, God is there. And while you are there looking for God, could you do me a favour? Why don't you lend a hand to bring some comfort and peace, then you will really see God. When you come face to face with the evil of this world and you ask yourself "Where is God Now." Remember that God is with us "Emmanuel." Amen.