Sunday, December 28, 2014

Met Georges Khodr: The Sunday after Christmas

Arabic original here.

The Sunday after Christmas

The days of Christmas stretch on. On the second day there is the Synaxis of the Mother of God and on the 29th there is the commemoration of the children who were killed by Herod. For today, the Sunday after the feast, and on each of these three days, the Gospel reading is the same: "When the Magi departed" from the Gospel of Matthew, since as the days pass we continue to stay with the divine child.

Here stands Herod determined to kill the Lord, but Joseph fled with Jesus and His mother to Egypt. Is what was meant by "Egypt" the desert of Sinai and its eastern borderlands, which are not far from Bethlehem? In Sinai, where Herod had no authority, Jesus would have been safe from the king.

Killing the children was in keeping with Herod's character, since he killed many people on account of his policies, including his son and some of his relatives. There are many who resemble Herod. They are the ones who want to kill Christ in the hearts of those who love Him or those who want to eliminate the Christian Church. However, the God who said, "Out of Egypt I have called My Son," calls us out of the darkness of oppression into His wondrous light. In the Bible, Egypt is the image of non-being and slavery. Grace brings us out of this into the Promised Land, to our meeting with God. Liturgically, this takes place at the Feast of Epiphany.

Those children died for the baby Jesus. We must pay heed to children, our brothers, and not grow hard and not commit a sin before them, as this would be killing their souls.

"Rachel weeps for her children." She is the grandmother of Benjamin and Ephraim, whose tribes settled the region. Her tomb is there, halfway along the route between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This is the weeping of all humanity over injustice. Jesus and those who were martyred for His sake are an image of all those who are persecuted in the world. The Lord will draw our attention to the fact that "blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake."

After this retreat to Egypt, the baby Jesus returned with His parents to Palestine because Herod had died. Herod was king over Judea, the region around Jerusalem. There were fears about the new king Archilaeus, so Joseph wanted to go to Galilee and live in Nazareth.

The city of exile became the city where Jesus grew up in human terms and where he learned to work with his hands. That is, he appears as an ordinary person, as a simple person. There he was obedient to His parents. Joseph taught Him the Holy Bible according to the traditions of the Jews. When the Jewish scholars debated in the temple when He was twelve years old,  He was equipped with the knowledge that He received at home and that which He received from the Jewish scholars in Nazareth.

His reputation spread that He knew the Holy Bible and that He was a teacher. Thus, "He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.  And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah" (Luke 4:16-17). "Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him" because they were waiting for Him to preach to them and explain to them Isaiah's prophecy that He had read.

After Nazareth, He taught in Capernaum on Sabbaths, and then went out to all the synagogues of Galilee. We should not be surprised that the blessed Lord studied the scriptures. This is part of His humanity. The Bible says that "He grew in wisdom, stature and grace before God and men". His divinity did not devoid His humanity of progressing according to the laws of growth for all humans. This is part of the mystery of His humility which will also be manifest on the Feast of Epiphany when He goes down to the river to be baptized.

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