28th December, Octave: Holy Innocents

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents, the children of Bethlehem massacred by the King Herod, in the process of trying to kill the infant Jesus. Herod was determined to protect power at all cost, even to the point of committing the most barbaric act -as killing innocent children. In the process, he fought against God’s will. What lesson can we draw from this sad event?

The motivation behind the massacre of Holy Innocents?

Herod killed all the boys two years of age and younger, in the hope of eliminating the child Jesus who appeared to be a threat to his power. When Herod heard from the Wise Men from the East speaking of the king of the Jews who was born that was a total provocation. A child destined to be king of the Jews? Enraged, he wanted to know about the child in order to kill him straightaway. His reaction was different from that of John the Baptist.

1 John 1: 5—2 2
Psalm 124: 2–5, 7–8
Matthew 2: 13–18

He who’s greater than I

When John the Baptist prepared the coming of the messiah, he spoke of someone who was greater than he was; the messiah must increase and John the Baptist decrease. John was comfortable with the fact that there’s someone above him -and he gives him what belongs to him. It’s not the case with Herod. It’s intolerable that there should be someone more superior than he is.  

Is there another King other than me? We can imagine the shocking questions going on in the head of Herod. There mustn’t be anyone above him, so he thinks.  No other king apart from him. So, he resorts to violent killing of innocent children to protect his power.

Herod in us

This is not just ancient history. Today children are also being abused, and there are times when we, despite being Christians, we put ourselves in the way of God’s plan because the selfish interests we harbour in our hearts for which we are ready to protect them at all cost, even by barbaric acts. We kill babies, even other people too, for money or for keeping our reputations. That is, there are various forms of power we want to keep for which, in the process, we do harm to those around us.

Example of Joseph

However, in the Gospel we meet Joseph with an attitude diametrically opposed to that of Herod. He doesn’t seek to put himself in the lime light, he’s ready to decrease himself, like John the Baptist, so that God’s plan of salvation may be accomplished in him. When he’s told: Arise and go forth into Egypt with the child and her mother; Joseph gets up and goes.

It’s up to each person to see: where do I place myself? The side of Herod where I’m ready to protect egoist interest regardless of the harm done to others? Or am I ready, at times, to forget my personal interests for the greater good of people around me?

We carry in our thoughts and prayers children all over the world who are suffering from various forms abuse. May our families be a place where children are safe and respected as human beings.

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