December 28, 2012
Holy Innocents, Martyrs
Matthew 2: 13-18
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
(Note: Lord, as we recall Herod’s brutal onslaught of the innocent two year olds, we mourn the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As the families begin to reconstruct their lives, may each person affected by this tragedy, move through the darkness of loss. And in time may life move forward in honor and gratitude for those so desperately missed.)
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents—those children murdered by Herod in his attempt to kill Jesus. Just why should we recall the senseless slaughter of innocent children? What is holy about them? One way to understand this feast day is to remember that it is similar to the way we celebrate fallen soldiers or the victims of some horrible genocide. We recognize that there is something important that needs to be remembered, a reality that deserves recognition, memorial, and honor towards the lost ones.
But today’s feast goes beyond this. It doesn’t —or shouldn’t—have the quality of a war memorial. It is a feast—a feast!—a celebration. A celebration of the slaughter of innocents? This might seem perverse, and to some contemporaries of the early Christians, perhaps it did. But to understand why the Church spontaneously began celebrating these innocents, we must think of the Cross of Christ and His Resurrection. For the followers of Christ, the cross—as fine an image of senseless violence as any—became a meaningful source of joy.
Thus it becomes possible to see these infants as martyrs as well. They died because of Christ’s coming; although they could not speak, they gave witness with their very lives. It seems to be a tragedy, to say the least, that these children were killed. And in any reasonable worldly perspective, it would be. But in a mysterious way, their deaths were also martyrdoms, and their lives in heaven are eternally glorified by their Lord.
—Timothy Kieras, S.J.
Father, you created me and put me on earth for a purpose. Jesus, you died for me and call me to complete your work. Holy Spirit, you help me to carry out the work for which I was created and called. May all my thoughts and inspirations have their origin in you and be directed to your glory.
Please share the Good Word with your friends!