Herod “the great” was a brutal king in Judea. As one connected to the Romans, he was very insecure governing the Jews. Among his pursuits, he killed his wife, his brother and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few. Today we hear about the slaughter of the innocent boys, two years and younger. I was blessed to be able to travel to the Holy Land last spring, and in Bethlehem is the church of the nativity. In one of the underground rooms is a spot where tradition says that the holy innocents were buried. I prayed there for an end to the slaughter of innocents in our day in the demonic slaughter of abortion.
The Gospel shows that Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Old Testament. In Exodus a new pharaoh came to town. He was not happy that the Israelites were so open to life and growing in number. So to break them he set them to hard labor. Eventually he ordered the midwives to kill any newborn boys. Some of the midwives refused to do this, and one of the children spared was Moses.
Saint Matthew takes great pains to show that Jesus is the new Moses, the one toward whom Moses was pointing his whole life. He did this because he was writing the Gospel to a Jewish audience. They would have understood the clues hidden throughout the Gospel. If you want to understand the Old Testament, read the Gospel of Matthew. I don’t mind giving you lots of good suggestions for reading!
The young boys who were killed were the first martyrs, who now wave their victorious palms from heaven. They confessed their faith not by speaking but by dying. Their suffering, like sufferings we experience, is not without use: shared in the cross of Christ, all suffering is somehow a victory. What great intercessors for us today.
Another aspect of this feast is the role of the forgotten Saint, Saint Joseph. Look at what St Joseph is experiencing. He receives this Angel-a terrifying creature-in a dream who tells him to get up and take the child and His mother to a foreign land and to wait until further notice. The Holy family had to pack up, travel to Egypt, Saint Joseph had to protect and provide for them. Saint Joseph doesn’t say a word. He simply does what the angel commands him. He could have protested, but he didn’t. As Saint John Chrysostom points out, “he obeys, believes, and endures all trials with joy”.
The holy innocents and Saint Joseph endured so much in order for Christ to be saved from this brutal King Herod. Let’s make them our special intercessors in our daily family lives, to help us also endure whatever trials God sends us so that we may grow in Holiness and trust in God’s mysterious plan.
Let’s also make them our special friends in rebuilding a culture of life in our society which is so bent on destroying the noble plans God has for the human person.