Feast of Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Dec 28) - Homily By Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: I John 1:5–2:2; Ps 124:2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8 and Matt 2:13-18
It was not enough that Christ was born in Bethlehem in the cold winter, and that the humble good shepherd, ordinary folks visited with him including the Magi from outside the Jewish territory, the Gentiles who brought him gift, Just as Simeon had foretold in the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:22-40).
Christ was to be Light to the Gentiles, a source for the fall and rise of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction- and as a result a sword would pass through Mary’s soul. This really came to be. Herod and Edomite (Mal 1:4) a Roman appointee as the political king of the Jews. He was not happy that the Birth of Christ the real King had made such wave in the community and in the neighborhood.
It was not enough that the shepherd had to leave their flocks and come to visit with Christ- King. Now the Magi came from abroad, outside Jerusalem, perhaps from Persia to visit with Jesus the long awaited king of the Jews with gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. They were led by the stars. Usually this comes with a significant event. And it does not happen every day. Magi don’t come from the East everyday looking for the King of the Jews in Judea. Naturally, it was very disturbing to Herod who felt threatened.
He quickly made up his mind to kill Jesus. But had to cover up his evil desire by pretending to the Magi that he would also want to visit with Jesus after they were done. But the mystery of the birth of Christ kept unfolding as planned by God. The Magi, after their visit with Christ took another route home as directed by God.
Joseph was directed to rise and take Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safety. When Herod realized that the Magi would rather obey God that him he went killing the entire baby boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas thinking Jesus would be one of his victims.
Herod in this story could be seen as a pretender, a liar, a murderer, a bully, a jealous and power hungry individual. I don’t think had any respect for children, their and their families. And I don’t think he realizes or cares about the suffering and pains he inflicted on those mothers and fathers watching their two years old baby boys slaughtered in the broad day light. What a Pain, as sorrow and a cross to bear.
Even though none of us here or today would want to paly Herod, I am pretty sure each and every one of us has a cross to carry in his or her life. Somebody can lie like Herod against you because he or she wants your position, your job. Our difference could be misinterpreted. You could be wrongly misunderstood, because of what an unsecured person, one not grounded in faith, said you are or did, even when the facts had not be double checked. Sufferings can come to us in forms of illness, a difficult partner, an argumentative friend, or because we were born into or married into a poor family. Not just material poverty, but spiritual or ethical poverty.
Supposing you have a brother, sister or friend who does not see anything wrong with abortion or challenges your faith, the Christian and Catholic Faith? What about wars that are not really call for or not to dissuade an attacking enemy. What about terrorist acts around the world? For example the 9/11, the London train bombing etc. Victims of such violent are not usually military combatants, but sometimes if not most of the times, innocent civilians, including women and children. What Faith does for us Christians is that they are not sufferings; they have a new meaning when we see them in the Light of the Cross of Christ and the hope of the resurrection.
And this is why Matthew quotes Prophet Jeremiah 35:15 today that, “a voice was heard in Ramah, crying with loud lamentation. Rachel weeping for her children and she would not be consoled since there were no more.” Even though there were sorrows in exile, there were also joy when they were set free. The sufferings of the Bethlehem were temporary. God will bring joy and happiness through the return of the Messiah- Christ. Our God can work through a disaster to blessings and from death to life.
Whatever, our life situations and vicissitudes may be God is always with us on our journeys.
Peace be with you!