Monday, December 26, 2011

Homily: Feast of Holy Innocents, Martyrs ( Dec 28)- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily: Feast of Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Dec 28, Year B) - 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. Those humble people:  ordinary shepherds, ordinary folks visited with him including the Magi from outside the Jewish territory and angered Herod. Innocent children were slaughtered because Christ, the Light of the word was born.

Christ born at Christ is the Light of the Gentiles. He is the source of life. He is causes the rise and the fall of many. He is the sign of contradiction. And as a result a sword would not only pass through Mary’s soul but lives of innocent children, by the reckless command of Herod.

 Herod an Edomite (Mal 1:4), a Roman appointee, 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.  He  became jealous and threatened by the Kingship of Christ.

He was not happy that those shepherd had to leave their flocks and come to visit with Christ- King.  He was not happy that Magi even 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. 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 than 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. He had no respect for children, and their families. He  care very little  about the sufferings 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, what a sorrow and what a cross to bear!

Even though none of us here or today would want to play Herod, I am pretty sure each and every one of us has a cross to carry in his or her life. 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.

Jealousy can also inflict pains and difficulties to neighbors. Injustices and all forms of violence, which still exist in our society today, can do the same.  Herod slaughtered the innocent children with a sword. What about those who sexually abused and “slaughtered” little children?

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 enable us to see sufferings with Christian’s eyes; 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 was also joy when they were set free. The Birth of Christ sets us free. The Birth of Christ brings us hope. The sufferings of the Bethlehem were temporary.  The joy promised by the prophets is fulfilled in Christ at Christmas.
Our God can work through a disaster to blessings and from death to life.

Sometimes we suffer innocently. Sometimes we were misunderstood. Whenever these moments present themselves to us not completely feel abandoned- but trust that God is always there with us on our journeys.