Holy Innocents

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, for those not aware, the Holy Innocents are the children who were slaughtered by King Herod who, in his madness, was trying to make sure he killed the newborn King, by killing all male babies in the vicinity. It’s a horrible story. Joseph takes Jesus and Mary to Egypt to protect them after hearing of the danger in a dream and thus, the King escapes anyway despots Herod’s attempt to insure his murder.

We need not think too hard to discover that we have many Holy Innocents today. Newtown, CT comes to mind, of course. And perhaps Herod’s failure gives us an opportunity for spiritual reflection today. Despite the worst atrocity that those parents we read about in scripture face, God continues to be with us anyway. Imagine the horror on the faces of Mary and Joseph when they receive word of the slaughter and I suppose, the relief that they were able to protect their child from it. I imagine that they had some survivor’s guilt. I wonder about the parents who wouldn’t relinquish their children to the authorities and I wonder if they perhaps too were killed. The men who carried out the order that day, who were just “following orders” remind me of the Nazis in World War II as well. We all have our own individual liberty and can choose whether or not to follow an immoral order. I wonder too, if there were not some soldiers unwilling to kill a child?

And God was sad. I’m convinced of it. While God warns Joseph in a dream, it seems heartless that God doesn’t warn all the parents, doesn’t it? Evil indeed is strong in the world and perhaps the wise on amongst us begins to realize that some days evil does gain a foothold?

But evil never gains the final word. While children get slaughtered, God redeems suffering, changes that incident into everlasting life for those harmed. Something that evil can never take hold of, despite the evil that always lurks in the world. Sometimes innocent people are harmed. Sometimes children get trafficked. Sometimes evil gets the best of ourselves too when we sin and especially when we sin horribly.

But God always has the last word. And that is what we must have faith in today. That each time evil happens in the world we need to be saddened by it, even angry about it. But our anger needs to be channelled through faith. We need to have the faith that says, “Evil will not control my hope. I will not fall into despair and hopelessness because I know God will somehow make all of this brokenness whole again.”

That’s a tough message to believe in, when we still have horrible slaughters of innocent children today. But believe it we must. So today, let us pray for all of the Holy Innocents–not just those in today’s gospel, but the children of Newtown, the children abused by clergy and other trusted people in their lives, children killed for no good reason, victims of war and poverty, children lost in abortion. All those who have had a right to live taken away by another. We lift our lives up to God in hope today and have faith in their name that they might be willing to also pray for us, so that we might be better able to believe that they are with God.

And may that provide more than enough hope for us today.