“Blessed those who take your babies and bash them against the rock" (Psalm 137:9). This is a gruesome yet important verse from the Bible. The original context had to do with the Jewish desire for revenge against their evil Babylonian captors during the exile. It was a prayer for justice (the Babylonians might have done this to the Jewish babies - think Pharaoh and Herod) and the complete destruction of their oppressors in such a way that there was no danger of further oppression by the future Babylonian generations.
Starting with the early Christian theologian Origin there was an important spiritual interpretation of this verse. Taking his cue from Saint Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Benedict wrote that the rock is Christ and our enemies are evil vices. Bash your vices while they are still babies on the rock of Jesus Christ. If your vices are allowed to grow into full adults they are much harder to defeat! The very humorous Saint Padre Pio would sarcastically quote this verse to his altar servers before leaving the sacristy for Mass, "Behave while serving Mass or I will bash your heads against the altar!"
Today we say the same thing - nip it in the bud, or don't make a mountain out of a molehill. When I was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Egan, he gave us the same advice. Quoting the Roman poet Ovid (17 AD), he told us about "obsta principiis", resist the beginnings. We should take immediate steps once we know we have fallen into difficulties. It is much easier to root out evil as soon as it appears than to try to do so after its effects have become pervasive (Amo, Amas, Amat and More, 207).
God bless you,
Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
St. Joseph Friary, Harlem, New York