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Over Christmas I really enjoyed watching the film ‘The Two Popes’.
I liked it not only for its drama about different ways for the church to be, and to do, but for its depth of humanity.
The characters came alive as leaders and also fallible people. People with something to learn from each other.
One part of the film reminded me of a visit I made to Argentina 15 years or so ago. The country of the present Pope.
During our stay in Buenos Aires we went to see ‘the Pink House’, the Argentine equivalent of the White House.
It was here, in a plaza in front of the presidential building, that mothers protested during the so-called ‘dirty war’.
Between 1973 and 1983 tens of thousands of people ‘disappeared’.
In response mothers and grandmothers of the victims of government oppression gathered in front of the Pink House and protested.
They were unafraid; the most important things in their lives had already been taken. They felt they had nothing else to lose.
It is hard for most of us to imagine this horror. This panic and desperation to know what had happened to loved ones. To seek answers and to be denied.
All that many of these women did was be present and weep.
The power of their protest lay, in part, in the fact that they were not influential people; they were not wealthy, they had no clout. They came, they demanded answers, and they expressed their grief:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
Today our Gospel reading is no less horrific. It tells of state organised violence – the murder of God knows how many children. All boys under the age of two.
It’s hard for us to imagine the impact of this crime, two thousand years ago.
The still greater tragedy is the repetition of such crimes, down the years, until today.
Children abducted and murdered; damaged beyond belief by living in a war zone; forced to survive on insufficient food and drink.
When will we learn?
When will we act?
Like the women in the Plaza de Mayo, the powerless have much to teach us. Perhaps they are not the kind of people we look to in order to learn. They are not always the educated or the qualified. They are certainly not wealthy or powerful.
Yet such passionate protesters articulate the injustices of life in ways which should disturb our comfort, and bring comfort to the broken.
Today we are between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Perhaps some of us are thinking about resolutions to make.
For me, reflecting on this Gospel, I don’t feel the need to make a new resolution – but I do feel a call to strengthen my resolve.
To listen and to act. To be open to the experiences of those responding to injustice and violence – to not only hear, but to do.
Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian and civil rights leader, put these feelings into context when he reflected on the Christmas story and it is with these words I wish to end: He writes….
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
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