The Challenge of Christmas
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
His Promise: "Even from your mother's womb, my darling, you were in my care;
and I will always be by your side" (says the Lord in Isaiah 44:2).
The young lady was all in tears as she unfolded the dilemma which had brought her with all urgency to the Diocesan Pastoral Centre. She was in her eight month of pregnancy, and everything had been going on well. But during the last two or three days she could not feel any movement of the foetus in her womb. Her gynecologist confirmed her fears since after scanning and sonography he could not detect the slightest heart beat in the foetus. He was sure that the baby was to all purposes dead and warned her that she had to have the baby aborted immediately else even her own life would be in danger. She then looked fixedly at me and cried out in a loud and tearful voice, "But, Father, I want my baby!"
"Then, let's pray together," I said to her, as she placed her hand with love on her stomach, and as I laid my hand with faith on her head. But as I was praying, not even softly, but just silently, there came very vividly before me the exquisite scene of the Visitation from the Infancy Narrative of Luke's Gospel. For when Mary went with all haste to visit Elizabeth after being told that she was already in her sixth month of pregnancy, Elizabeth, on hearing Mary's greeting, was filled with the Holy Spirit, enabling her to recognize with delight the presence of her God in Mary's womb, and leading her to proclaim with gladness that even the child in her own womb had leapt for joy, for he too was now filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:41-44,15). At once, as if inspired by the same Spirit, I prayed quietly within myself, "Jesus, what you even as a babe in your mother Mary's womb did for John, even while he was still a babe in his mother Elizabeth's womb, do the same for the little babe that is in this mother's womb."
I had hardly finished this short 'mental' prayer, than the woman with her hand still on her stomach cried out with tears of joy, "Father, it's moving. It's moving, Father!" "I must leave for an urgent matter right away." I told her apologetically, "But don't stop praying right now, till your baby is not just moving with life but, like John, even leaping for joy in your womb." And as I was moving off, she spontaneously made two incredible statements: "Father, as you were praying over me, I felt something like the 'spirit of death' (sic) leaving my womb and getting out through my two legs"; and, "I know that my baby was dead. It has just now come back to life!"
That was the last I saw of her. I did not even know her name. But that incident made such a great impression on me that I used to often tell that 'story' when speaking about the sin and evil of abortion and when encouraging mothers to surrender to the Lord the temptation to do so, whatever may be the reason. About four years later at the end of a healing service, a young lady came up to me with her four year old son and said, "Father, I am the lady and this little boy is the baby whose story you have related today and quite often before. Perhaps you may be interested to know more about what had actually happened before and would subsequently happen after that incident or 'miracle'. Here's her account and witness.
In the year 1995, she delivered a healthy baby boy. But after eleven days the baby expired unexpectedly and she was badly shaken. She kept falling sick and she even underwent a gall bladder operation, - not knowing that she was again pregnant. When this was found out, all the doctors whom she consulted asked her to terminate the pregnancy. For they felt that the operation must have already affected the baby adversely and it could be born physically handicapped or even mentally retarded. Her family too pressurized her to abort the child, but with the support of her mother she decided to continue with the pregnancy and accept the child, since she was convinced that God knew what was best for her. But in the eight month of pregnancy, she developed some complications and was hospitalized and kept under observation. By the end of the week, she was told that there was no hope for the baby. She was then discharged with the warning that she would come back to the hospital but only to deliver a dead baby. She was very upset.
In her anguish she came to see me the next morning, accompanied by her husband. She told me about her baby's condition and about the doctors' advice and warning. I placed my hand on her head and began praying, but, as she now reminded me to my surprise, I soon left her to attend to an urgent telephone call. I had hardly lifted my hand from over her head, than she felt something burning within her and her stomach started vibrating vigorously. She was totally shaken and scared, for she felt a turbulent storm in her womb. She was very angry with me for leaving her in that condition, and waited nervously for me to come back to pay heed to what she was going through. But when I resumed praying over her, she felt something very hot leave through her legs, and lo she could hear her baby's heartbeats and feel its movements. I then told her not to worry and assured her that nothing would happen to the baby. When she went for a checkup, the doctor himself was astounded and said that everything was normal. She delivered a healthy baby boy, without any physical or mental deformity, on 8th September, 1996 - Mary's birthday, not without reason.
However, on the eleventh day, as she was bathing the baby, he turned blue, and she felt that he must have inadvertently swallowed some water. All the neighbours who saw the child whispered that he was dead. As her family ran to the nearest doctor with the baby, she went down on her knees before the family altar and looking up at Jesus told him that no enemy could stand before him and that he could bring her son back to life again. She also reminded him of my words that 'nothing would happen to the baby'. Not long after her family returned with her baby, not dead but alive, smiling and kicking. Even before he was placed on the examination table he had started breathing. The pediatrician who screened him said that there was no trace of water having been swallowed by the baby. She could not help thinking that this was not a medical problem, but that it was the spirit of death that had hovered over the child again (cfr Rev 12:1-6, 13-17). And she was sure that the Lord, who had brought this child back to life not once but twice, would surely continue protecting him.
Still another four years later, on the 12th of March this year, 2005, I received a phone call from Donna, that's her name, saying that she had to come and see me right away. I wondered whether the old problem had reoccurred or some new problem had cropped up. She came along with her son Brendon, now eight years plus, to my parish, St. Pius X, Mulund, North East Mumbai, to show me with excitement and pride the year's Awards and Certificates he had received at the prize distribution that same day in his prestigious school, St. Stanislaus High School, Bandra, Mumbai, run by the Jesuits. For he had received the highest marks in all the ten subjects of his class, English, Reading, Dictation, Poetry, Geography, History, Science, Mathematics, Physical Training and Computer, and the Highest Honour in General Proficiency in all the divisions of his standard - a child who was predicted by six specialists that he would be born dead, - and, if alive, would be deformed, physically or mentally or both - and had therefore to be aborted and destroyed!
Should we not then this Christmas all praise the Lord, who gives children to the woman who has none and makes her a happy mother (Ps113:9)! Jesus himself was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary and the Church, his Body, was born of the Holy Spirit in the presence of Mary. Christmas is thus the victory of the Paraclete (Advocate), the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, Light and Love, over the Enemy, the evil spirit of death, darkness and destruction, who will want to destroy marriages out of jealousy (Tob 6:18), and to close wombs or destroy their fruit through abortions and miscarriages out of envy (Lk 2:13). Let our thanksgiving prayer to God our Father for the year 2005 therefore be this Christmas:
Our Prayer: "You drew me safely from my mother's womb and placed me on your lap in my babyhood" (says the Psalmist in Ps 22:9).
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