February 27, 2011
Rachel and the Abortion Issue
Jeremiah 31:15: This is what the LORD says: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.
Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, and Rachel’s Hope are a few of the abortion outreach efforts associated with Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Benjamin and Joseph. She is also remembered during the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which is celebrated on December 28th. Ironically, the name, memory, and words of Rachel (Jeremiah 31:15) are used by both proponents and opponents of abortion.
Who was Rachel - Rachel lived approximately 1,500 years before Jesus walked the earth. She was well-known for her beauty and her status as the mother of two of the twelve tribes of Israel. During 597 King Nebuchadnezzar conquered and destroyed Jerusalem. During the next decade the Jewish population was gathered in Ramah, one the cities alloted to the Benjamin by his inheritance. From there the Jewish population was resettled throughout Babylon, beginning their 60-year exile. As Jeremiah reports, the sound of Rachel weeping is heard. She weeps for the future of her sons and their descendents.
Matthew 2:16-17 refers to this Jeremiah passage when describing King Herod’s orders to kill all the male children of Bethlehem. According to the gospel “then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah.” Okay, technically the people of Bethlehem belonged to the tribe of Judah - who was not Rachel’s son. But the tribes were somewhat intermingled at that point. Anyway, the Catholic Church adopted the feast of the Holy Innocents over a thousand years ago to remember the poor children that lost their lives because of Herod’s rage. Over time, this feast day has expanded to encompass the memory of all the innocent unborn children. Consequently, December 28th is often selected as a day to pray or even picket outside of abortion clinics.
While the original passage was not in reference to abortions, the biblical passage powerfully conveys a mother’s inconsolable grief over an irreversible loss.