“My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.” – 1 Jn. 2: 1-2

An African proverb goes, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” This saying hits home for me as I reflect on today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents. Today the Church commemorates the killing of children on Herod’s command. I see it also as an opportunity to reflect on innocence killed in my own life – personally and in the world.

I wonder why Herod would choose to make such a devastating order – to slaughter innocent children. Was it malice? Pride? Fear? Insult? Disconnection from those he ruled over? Whatever overtook Herod “The Great,” as I imagine what was going on during those days, I am jarringly reminded in my prayer of the “light” and “darkness” in me too. If we are honest with ourselves, I believe that we all live with this tension at some level. I also acknowledge that many times when darkness beats out the light in some way, “grass suffers” – some innocence in someone else or in the world is snuffed because of some meanness I show. As Pope Francis reflected while visiting a prison, "I think to myself, 'I, too, could be here.' That is, none of us can be sure that we would never commit a crime, something for which we'd be put in prison."

As many times as my generous words or deeds may have encouraged someone, my words or deeds have also cut others down. This awareness increases my reliance on God. In this recognition, I learn to ask for the graces of light and connection to innocence. Likewise, I ask for more patience for others that struggle with the same tensions. Sometimes I am a fighting elephant; other times I am a blade of grass.

God, for the moments when you allow me to be a vessel of your light, thank you. For the moments when darkness overcome me and I extinguish some light and innocence, forgive me. For every moment, teach me your healing ways.

Vivian Valencia

Photo Credit: Michael Zide