When Herod realized that the astrologers
had tricked him he flew into a rage, and
gave orders for the massacre of all the boys
aged two years or under, in Bethlehem and
throughout the whole district.
St. Matthew 2:16

Full readings: 1John 1:5-2:2; Psalm 124; St. Matthew 2:13-18.

Our Lord warned us that He came not to bring peace but a sword. No sooner was He born than this is fulfilled with the slaying of the Holy Innocents; blood was spilt on His behalf. Unbeknown to these infants, they became the first of many to die innocently, without defending themselves or any defence offered on behalf of them. Jeremy Taylor writing in his Great Exemplar described this massacre of innocent blood as "sad, cruel and universal". There was no pity shown towards the "shriekings of the mothers, no tender-hearted soldier was employed, no hard-hearted person was softened by the weeping eyes, and pity-begging looks of those mothers, who wondered how it was possible any person should hurt their pretty sucklings; no connivances there, no protections, or friendships, or consideration, or indulgences."

What happened to these innocent babes under the order of the furious rage of Herod two thousand years ago is still happening to-day. One example of this is in the eighties in El Salvador, and the martyrdom, not so much of Archbishop Romero who knew exactly what he was against, but of the thousands of innocent Christians who were slaughtered by the regime. The eighties also witnessed the decade of hostaging. So many innocents became the victim of political ransoming who were pawns in the struggle for all kinds of political manipulation. Indeed we know that the history of mankind has many, many examples of how the innocent have been exploited, subjugated, and massacred by the corruption of power.

However it is not only on the political level that the innocent are persecuted and martyred. It happens in every walk of life where the stronger takes advantage of the weaker. Many a time looking out of the classroom window at recess times, this has all been too evident. The sin of man is all too real; the "bullies" picking on the "small" or "quiet" or "serious" or "handicapped". When will man realize that force never achieves? It is the most negative force in the world.

In this most secular world of ours, the committed Christian, finds him or herself often in an "innocent" situation. Although not always called to martyrdom, he or she often faces much hostility for standing up for the Gospel truths in every day living. How often, for example, is real concern for another person looked upon suspiciously or angerly? However this "sword" is nothing compared to what treasure we have in Christ. Can we not try to give all for Him Who gave all to us. This Babe who left His heavenly home was born for us at this time so we could have the richest of lives possible, but at a price - Calvary. Christ gave all for us and we should never forget it. The infants killed under Herod's instructions could not know for whom they were dying, but for us it is quite different. Anything we suffer we know it is for our dear Saviour whose "help" is always there.

Our theme is innocency. On this day there is another way we should also consider this. To be truly Christ-like in this world we must have the innocency of children. Our Lord insisted unless we were like children, we could never enter the kingdom of heaven. I don't think I need to tell you this means having a trustlike and eager approach to our faith. We accept that all is in God's hands, and get on being a Christian.

Dear Lord give me that innocent approach to my faith so that I commend all things into Your care. Let me also be prepared to suffer anything for you as the Holy Innocents did. May such innocent suffering always be a means to draw closer to You. Amen.

Marianne Dorman

To the Feast of the Holy Family
The thronging mothers cry in pain,
All weeping for their children slain;
For these the tyrant sacrificed
In thousands on accoint of Christ.
  - from Lauds for this day.
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