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I John 1:5ˁ2
Psalm 124:2-3, 4-5, 7cd-
Matthew 2:13-18
John˅s letter tells us that if we admit our sins, Jesus Christ, who is ˈfaithful and just,˅ will
forgive them, and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. The Psalmist, knowing that our
souls have been rescued, praises our help that is in the name of the Lord. Matthew tells
us that Joseph, heeding the command of an angel of the Lord in a dream, fled with Mary
and Jesus to Egypt, which flight saved Jesus from destruction by Herod, whose then
soon to happen massacre of children caused inconsolable sobbing, lamentation, and
weeping in Bethlehem and its vicinity.
Three days ago on Christmas we were singing, ˈChrist, the Savior is born,ˉ celebrating
God become incarnate, Jesus, a baby in a manger, born of Mary with Joseph ˀ the Holy
Family, this parish˅s charism. Amid warm images of shepherds, stars, and angels heard
on high, we shared again the joy of God, Jesus the Christ, who has come into the world.
But, today, three days later, the Church relives in sorrow the coldhearted massacre of
Bethlehem˅s boys under two, slashed by swords or beaten, crushed, or cast from a cliff,
or drowned, or abandoned in the wilderness to starve and die. In the frenzy of annihila-
tion, girls under two also were probably killed. King Herod˅s furious rage against them
was fueled by his fear of losing his grasp of worldly power. The inconsolable sobbing
and lamentations were so great as to be heard from afar.
The Church holds these children in memory as the Holy Innocents. ˈInnocentˉ surely by
any standard. ˈHolyˉ because each suffered a horrific death intended for Jesus. They
were the blood shed that absorbed worldly wrath, discharging it for a time, which allowed
Jesus to later return from Egypt to prepare for his mission: to save us who are surely
guilty of sin. Innocent himself, Jesus˅ blood was shed by perpetrators, who also feared
loss of worldly power. Yet, near death, Jesus prayed, ˈFather, forgive them, they know
not what they do.ˉ (Luke 23:34.)
The Holy Innocents were given names, unknown to us, but sacred to their families in
faith -- Jewish names, probably that of a patriarch, a prophet, a king, or a dear relative,
already honored with such a name. Among them we can imagine innocent babies, in-
fants, and toddlers under two with names like Abraham, Ezekiel, Isaiah, or Solomon,