The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Matthew 2: 13-18

1 Jn 1:5—2:2/ Psa 124

Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.
(Matthew 2:13b)

Innocents continue to be slain –

In mothers’ wombs, in streets at night.

As innocent must we still remain?

Who will fight for their right to life?

After 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 younger, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.” (Matthew 2:13-18)


Why was Egypt chosen to be the place of refuge for the infant Jesus? Some biblical scholars believe that the evangelist Matthew wanted to point out the significance of the exodus experience as part of God’s salvation plan from the very beginning of Jesus’ life. This was for the benefit of the Jews, for whom he was writing his Gospel.

Every year, the Church commemorates December 28 as the “Feast of the Innocents” or the “Feast of the Innocent Martyrs”. The practical jokers among us celebrate this day as an excuse to “fool the innocents” (as they also do every time on April 1, “April Fools’ Day”). Many years ago, a friend invited me and my wife to their beach house, where they were having a “post-Christmas overnight rock concert”. Even though the venue was quite a distance from downtown, the prospect of an enjoyable evening with friends and rock bands was hard to resist, so we packed our bags, and with our two kids, went to the beach concert, only to find out an hour later that the place was deserted, and my friend had merely played a “Holy Innocents’ Day” trick on me.

Today’s feast of the Holy Innocents is no laughing matter when we consider the cruelty of King Herod, who murdered hundreds of babies on that fateful day, in his evil plot to eliminate the “future king of the Jews.”. One can only wonder why God had allowed this terrible injustice to happen. Perhaps their blood was spilled on the great altar of sacrifice for mankind’s salvation, as our Savior’s blood was shed in Calvary. Their innocent blood was meant to sanctify a world stained by man’s pride and greed for power. In the divine order of creation, every life born on earth has a purpose. Every person conceived has the blessing of the Creator, because he or she has an important part in God’s plan. Surely those innocent babies did not die in vain.

The mindless killing of innocent lives in abortion clinics today is as abominable as the crime of King Herod. Not only because it murders the innocent and most vulnerable, defenseless being created, but because it subverts the divine will. It is therefore every Christian’s duty to defend life, especially the life of any innocent being. A society that allows abortion to exist will suffer the onus of divine retribution.

Loving Father, today we honor the memory of the innocent martyrs, victims of man’s greed for power, but now members of Your heavenly hosts. For their sake, and those of other innocents in our midst, may we always defend their right to life. Amen.

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