December 28, The Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs
Daily Readings: 1 John 1:5 - 2:2 & Matthew 2: 13-18
The First Reading from the letter of St John, teaches us how we should live as children of God. If we want to have fellowship with Christ and with one another, we must walk in the light as "God is light". In him, there is no darkness and if we fail to walk in the light, we have Jesus who is faithful and forgives us every wrongdoing through his Passion, death and Resurrection.
In the midst of our joy at the birth of Jesus, we are suddenly confronted with the darkness of evil and death. The Church remembers today the innocent children who were killed by Herod who became furious when he realized that he had been deceived by the Magi- the Three Kings. They were warned in a dream by an angel to return to their countries by a different route. Herod ordered the killing of all male children below the age of two years in Bethlehem and surrounding areas, in his attempt to get rid of the child, Jesus. Joseph also had a dream where he was told by the angel to take Mary and the child Jesus to Egypt where they were to remain until they were told by the angel when they were to return from exile. Joseph listened and did what he was commanded to do. He followed the angel's instructions for the safety of Jesus and Mary and out of love for them. This is the second time in the Gospels we are told of Joseph's integrity and faithfulness, first when he was told in a dream to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20-24).
Matthew quotes from the prophet Jeremiah about the trials and sufferings of the ancestors of Jesus when there was `weeping and loud lamentation in Ramah as Rachel wept for her children `since they were no more`. He is relating this to the killing of innocent children by Herod and the exile and suffering of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Egypt.
At Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation, God's coming into the world as a human person, but today, we are put in touch with the reality of that birth as we reflect on how the wood of the Manger and the wood of the Cross - reveal God's love for humanity through both joy and suffering.
In the birth and death of Jesus Christ, the Manger and the Cross, belong together. In the words of Pope Francis: "To contemplate the manger in isolation from the world around us would make Christmas into a lovely story that inspires warm feelings but robs us of the creative power of the Good News that the Incarnate Word wants to give us."
Our world can be a dark place where God's light and love are not recognized. But it is often in darkness that the true power and hope of the Christmas season is revealed. Today children suffer many forms of violence as victims of war, hunger, abuse and are forced to live in poverty. Children still have plenty of "Herods" to fear. Who, for you, are the "holy innocents" of today?