Jeremiah 37: 1-14
Psalm 84: 1-8
Ephesians 1: 3-6, 15-19a
Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23
She looked quite ancient, I thought, as I watched her watching us as we walked down the narrow street that would take us past where she was sitting. As we got closer I realized it wasn’t age that made her look old, but obviously a hard life. She couldn’t have been more than about 50 or so. I was sure that she would soon stretch out her hand, begging a few coins, or better still some US dollars, from one or more of us. And sure enough, just as we got within reach, out came her arm, but not to cup her hand in expectation of loose change. Rather she held out her wrist so that we could all see the tiny blue cross tattooed there. “Christian, Christian” she repeated and beamed and waved her wrist, as we filed past, acknowledging her greeting and went on our way.
Jeremiah 31: 7-14; Psalm 84: 1-8; Ephesians 1: 3-6, 15-19a; Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23
I have been reading Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, the story of a young Burundian Tutsi who fled for his life to the United States after great suffering and months of running and hiding during the genocidal holocaust that swept through Burundi and neighboring Rwanda fifteen years ago. Throughout the long months of massacre in which he lost members of his family, friends and neighbors, Deo Gratias, for that is his name, lived in the forest a hunted man, constantly on the run, starving and sick, until a friend and former classmate at medical school (and, ironically, a Hutu, the ethnic group responsible for the slaughter), saved his life by helping him get a visa and a plane ticket to the United States. Deo arrived in America virtually penniless, and without a job or the ability to speak English. He barely survived. Then a series of miraculous encounters involving a former nun, a lawyer, a childless couple and Dr. Paul Farmer turned his life around and enabled him to get a degree from Columbia, finish medical school, and embark on a project to build a free clinic in a remote area of Burundi that would not only minister to the sick but also bring peace and reconciliation to the warring ethnic factions of that region. Experiencing years of such abject tragedy could easily have embittered him, but instead it had the opposite effect. This is an amazing story of one man’s determination to work wonders against all odds, and how his personal dedication and sense of mission have inspired others and liberated them from fear and violence.
I came to this story of the Holy Family’s flight into exile in Egypt with the modern story of Deo’s escape to the United States fresh in my mind and remembered the many millions who have had to undergo similar traumatic moves to flee evil and death.