Feast of the Holy Innocents | December 28, 2019

Many will look at today’s Gospel reading of King Herod’s massacre of the innocents in and around Bethlehem in the attempt to kill the child Jesus and see in the death of all those innocents a parallel to the deaths of the unborn through abortion.  And they are right.

Many will look at the Gospel and see a parallel with innocent immigrant children separated from their families at the border, or of refugee children refused care and left in terrible conditions to die, often cut off from anyone who loves them. And they are right.

Some will recognize their own perilous journey fleeing state-sponsored violence, war or terrorism in the angel-driven flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. They will hear of how the Family safely reached Egypt and remember the relief they felt when they themselves were out of harm’s way. And they are right.

Others will look at this story and see the effort of a fearful ruler engaged in an act of retaliation to hold onto power, even as it slips through his grasp. They will draw parallels to dictators down through the centuries and right up to the cusp of 2020 where we are. And they are right.

There are many parallels to the terrible and horrific sin committed by Herod and many layers of the story that can speak to us. Perhaps it is hard to endure such horrible story so soon after the joy of Christmas. But it reminds us all the same of the fact that Jesus’ mission on earth to displace the corruption of rulers and kingdoms with the Reign of God was a threat to those powers from the beginning.

They do not want this promise to come because it means the end of them. God’s kingdom come means their kingdom goes!

And it is a reminder that Jesus was not spared the slaughter of the innocents. The first letter of John reminds us that it is Jesus’ own blood, shed on the cross, that cleanses sin. “This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ” St. John said. And St. John is right!

We are invited out of the darkness, and the place where fearful leaders cower, and into the light where joyful, redeemed disciples stand! Disciples who are called by God to hold fast to the value of every human life; to stand against violence directed at innocents, to fight against injustice and corruption in our hearts and our society wherever it is found.

And when we commit to responding to that call, and living so that innocent children and adults may be treated with dignity and care, we, too, are right and the Spirit of the Child of Bethlehem shines in us!

God give you peace!

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As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.