Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate the memory of the Holy Innocents, the martyrs of the faith who were slaughtered on the orders of king Herod of Judea, who murdered them in his futile attempt to destroy the Messiah and Saviour of the world, the True King Whom Herod feared would topple him and take over the kingdom and power and rule from him.
King Herod was known to be an Idumaean, who through his alliances with the Romans had gained the control over the whole kingdom of Judea from the Jewish monarchs known as the Hasmoneans, who belonged to the family of the Maccabees which had its roots in the Book of the Maccabees in the Scriptures. As such, King Herod was in a sense not the true king of Judah but a usurper, who gained power through worldly means and deceit.
He was a proud king who did not tolerate any opposition to his rule, no less the King of Israel and Saviour of the world Who had come into the world to usher in His kingdom of love and peace to all those who believe in Him. Pride is indeed a very dangerous enemy to us all, as it is pride that had caused Lucifer the Archangel to fall and became Satan the great enemy and the Accursed One, and it was pride that caused many men to fall and fail on their way to reach God’s salvation.
St. John also addressed this issue when he wrote in his Epistle that we heard as the passage today, speaking about those who said that they had no sin, that they deceived themselves and brought not salvation for themselves but instead ruin and destruction. St. John reminded us of the stubbornness of the Pharisees and the elders of Israel and Judah, who refused to believe in Jesus because they thought of themselves as righteous.
It was their self-perception of righteousness and pride in their own power, intellect and ability which became their downfall. They became haughty, ambitious and power-seeking, and they were unwilling to part with all the good things that they had enjoyed in life. And it was that same pride which had brought down King Herod that brought them down as well.
If Herod murdered many innocents, blameless and those who should not have been harmed, just in order to safeguard his interests, then we can see how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law constantly bickered with the Lord Jesus and His disciples, as they did with John the Baptist as well, because they were trying to safeguard and satisfy their own human interests. Is this what we want for ourselves, brethren?
It is a reminder from the Lord that this season of Christmas is a time when we should look beyond ourselves, perish our greed and pride, and seek instead to bring glory to the Lord and His Name, obeying His will and commandments rather than our own will and desires. The Holy Innocents are those who have perished from the result of the greed of men and the desire of those who hunger for worldly goodness and desires.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there had been many other victims to human greed and ambition. Many people have suffered and perished because of our inability to resist the temptations of power and glory. In the same way, we too have often mistakenly celebrated this season of Christmas with revelry and rejoicing, celebrating our human achievements and deeds, but we forget about God, and we also forget about our brethren in need.
As Christians, we are today challenged to break free from the grip of our own greed and human ambitions and pride, so that we may learn to be loving and to be generous with our giving and mercy to our brethren in need. We should open our hearts to the Lord and welcome His love, trusting ourselves entirely, and not hardening our hearts and minds against Him as king Herod and the Pharisees and teachers of the Law had done.
May the Lord help us in our journey of life, and devote ourselves wholeheartedly and commit ourselves to Him in all of our deeds and actions. May He remind us always of the Holy Innocents who have died because of our human greed and ambition, that we may always seek to be humble and to give it all to God instead of trusting in our own human power and intellect. Amen.