A few days after Christmas, the Catholic Church commemorates the Feast of the Holy Innocents. It seems that the three Magi stopped at the court of King Herod and asked for directions to the new born King of the Jews. Herod was afraid of any kind of opposition to his rule ordered the killing of “all men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under...” (Matthew 2:16-18.)
The original number of reported deaths was 14,000 boys but later reduced by modern scholars to 15 or 20 infant boys. Herod even had his own 2-year-old son killed to eliminate any potential threat in his own family. Jewish law forbids the eating and slaying of pork so it was said that it was better to be Herod’s pig than his son.
As ugly and vicious as the murder of 20 babies is, it was hardly the cruelest and brutal thing King Herod had done. In fact, some ancient historians barely mention the crime. In fact, there was a motive behind the slaughter, albeit ugly and paranoidially misdirected. He was trying to eliminate any future competition.
The number of children murdered in Newtown, Conn., also was 20. Their murders were completely unreasonable and inexplicable. They were committed by a mad man and reason had been completely suspended in that very ill mind. Who among us has not wondered what could have been done to prevent the killings?
Of course, there are those who would restrict certain kinds of weapons or ammunition packages. Maybe that’s an answer, but I don’t know what we can do about the millions of weapons already out there and the many more millions of ammunition clips circulating in the general population. I can bet your mortgage there is no way constitutionally to remove those weapons from legal owners.
If you could somehow restrict weapons, it is nearly impossible to control a madman from getting the gun illegally or using some other kind of weapon. The issues have been dealt with in great detail by those much smarter than I. My concern and sympathy lies with the parents and families of the babies.
The loss of a child is without question the most grievous pain a human heart can withstand. The loss of your beloved 6-year-old at the hands of a gun-wielding maniac must be the most savage assault on a soul possible. Will these poor people survive the same attack that took the lives of their children? If so, what sort of humanity will be left by this grisly event? How many mental disorders and divorces and human misery will lay in the blood of that elementary school? Clearly, the survivors are as much a victim as their child was, but in a different and grotesque way. Those issues haunt me.
Another question keeps drilling at my heart. Where was my God in all of this madness? In fact, where has he been through the ages when a human being acts far worse than his other animal brethren? Of course, I know the stock answer that men have free will and that our God does not intervene in the execution of that freedom. I also know that the capacity for good far outweighs the capacity for evil and, in fact, these evil acts throughout history are an aberration and not the norm. I know that humans are hardwired to do the right thing and that the wrong thing happens only as a result of a hideous convergence of pathological events, some even physical in nature.
I know all those things, but what is the purpose of prayer if most prayer is asking for help in this life and in this consciousness? The answer must be that our God can and will only be involved directly in another sort of universe, dimension or consciousness. The cliché has it that “God helps those who help themselves.” Rather, and more realistically, it should be said that “God helps those who are helped by others.”
As we all have discovered, evil and good reside very deeply in the hearts of man. Every act of goodness, no matter how large or small, is the physical confirmation of the Divine and the affirmation of our ultimate humanity. Without that, this life can be very, very bleak.
DeSantis is a Meadville resident.