Friday, 28 December 2018 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the feast of the Holy Innocents, one of the earliest martyrs in the Church, for those innocents were the young infants of the town of Bethlehem, who was killed by the order of king Herod the Great of Judea, in his futile effort to try to destroy the coming Messiah and King, as written in the Holy Gospels and prophesied in the Old Testament by the prophets.

The Holy Innocents were the victims of human greed, ego and pride, the outcome of man’s attachment to worldly glory and the temptations of the world. I am sure that some of us may have wondered, why God allowed those infants in Bethlehem to be killed. Surely he could have intervened and prevented the infants from being killed? But this is where we need to understand that, the cause of this sad tragedy, was our attachments to sin and our refusal to obey God’s will.

God gave each and every one of us free will and the wisdom to discern His will. Yet, by our own conscious choice and abuse of our freedom, we chose to be selfish and to entertain the wicked temptations which Satan put in our place, as obstacles in our way towards the Lord. Throughout the history of mankind, there had been countless occasions when people suffered, because of the tyranny of those who had power, glory, prestige and superiority over others.

For this particular case on the Holy Innocents, we should also understand the context and the reason why king Herod did what he had done, in the slaughter of the innocent infants of Bethlehem. King Herod the Great was the first king and the founder of the Herodian dynasty of kings who would rule Judea, Galilee and parts of southern Syria, which at that time, just came under the rule and domination of the mighty Roman Empire.

King Herod took over control of Judea from the previous native, Jewish dynasty of the Hasmoneans, descendants of the Maccabees, who were the ones that won the independence of Judea from foreign rule, as written in the Book of the Maccabees. King Herod took over power by deceit and with support from the Romans, who made Herod some sort of a client king, who had some authority and autonomy over Judea, but ultimately had to submit to the Romans. Herod himself was not a Jew, but an Idumean.

Herod therefore, was insecure in his power and kingdom, and therefore, the news of the coming of the King among the Jewish people, was a very bad news for him. As a foreigner ruling as king over the Jewish population, he would have felt even more insecure with this revelation, and of the Three Wise Men who came to him saying that the King of Kings would be born in Bethlehem in the territory of his kingdom.

This is why, combined with Herod’s own megalomania and grandeur, as he was known for his many huge building projects, including vast expansion of the Temple of Jerusalem and a building named after himself, the Herodium, it would be natural for Herod to want the King of Kings to be killed as a rival to his power and authority. Yet, we have to understand that he clearly had a choice in this matter. He had it within his free will and choice not to do what was so abominable and wicked as killing innocent children, but he did it nonetheless.

And why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is because of his selfishness, his inability to detach himself from his pride and ego, and his greed for power. He did not want to allow a rival King to emerge, someone who might snatch the kingdom, power and glory that was in his hands. And unfortunately, this was the same reason why many of us mankind, throughout history had done, and caused untold sufferings and pains for countless others.

Therefore, today as we celebrate this feast of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, all of us are called to reflect on our vulnerabilities to the temptations of pride and greed in our own lives, and how we can fall deep into the trap of sin should we indulge ourselves in them as Herod had done. Unless we consciously choose to resist those temptations, it is likely that we will cause sufferings and pains to others just as king Herod had done to the innocent infants of Bethlehem, all to satisfy his pride, ego and megalomania.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this blessed Christmas season, are we able to devote ourselves to God with a new strength and zeal? Are we willing to resist the pull and the temptation of worldly desires and to get rid of ourselves the pride and ego within our hearts and minds? Let us all instead turn towards God and follow the selfless example of Christ in everything we say, act and do, so that from now on, we are no longer living in sin, but in the grace of God. May God be with us always. Amen.

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