December 28, 2016
(Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs)
When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, Mt_2:13-18
Reaction or Response? . . .
Herod was a rash, reactive and cruel Roman leader. His sole motivation in life was self-preservation. Thus, when anything occurred that seemed to threaten that motive, Herod was quick to react and eliminate any possibility of opposition to his own ‘good will.’
Herod was also somewhat familiar with the Jewish prophesies. He heard of the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah – that the Jewish people were so anxiously awaiting. And, as a matter of fact, he already had many, self-proclaimed messiahs killed.
But this one was a little different. Never before had anyone received such acclamation of notoriety, by such highly esteemed dignitaries as the Magi. So before they ever left his company, Herod sought his own redemption, by commanding the Magi to reveal the exact location of this new Messiah, so that he could secretly have him killed. But when the Magi failed to return, it was time for Herod to react again, as usual.
And knowing that his threat was a child, knowing that it was a boy, and knowing that he was born in or near Bethlehem, Herod reacted with his customary violence by having all of the male children of Bethlehem slaughtered.
Today we celebrate the martyrdom of these innocent children. Children who died, not even knowing why they were killed. And yet in their deaths, our true Messiah, Jesus, escaped from Herod’s grasp, with the help of an attentive and responsive father, Joseph.
Which, of course, leads us to a very important aspect of the whole story.
It leads us to that same question of – what motivates our own actions? Are we attentive to others, to the activities and forces of nature all around us? Are we attentive to God’s hand – leading, guiding and protecting us through other people – who may just be angels in disguise? Do we listen and respond as Joseph did, with the forethought of asking – Who else, beside ourselves, might our actions impact? Or do we just impulsively react to situations, like Herod?
When Jesus grew up, with the wisdom taught by His mother, and the compassion inbred by His Heavenly Father, he taught own His disciples and us how very important it is to respond, rather than just react to life around us. When our response emanates from love instead of greed, not only will we be saved throughout our earthly lives, but we will find that Eternal Salvation that Jesus came to offer us, as well. And when we reach that heavenly destination, we’ll find ourselves in the same company as the saints and the angels, as the aborted children and martyred Christians. And we will be together with these Holy Innocents who died, like Jesus, that we may have life!
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