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.

Friday, 28 December 2018 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 2 : 13-18

After the wise men had left, an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the Child in order to kill Him.”

Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and left that night for Egypt, where He stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled : I called My Son out of Egypt.

When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood who were two years old or under. This was done in line with what he had learnt from the wise men about the time when the star appeared.

In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled : A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation : Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.

Friday, 28 December 2018 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 123 : 2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8

Had not the Lord been on our side, when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive; such was their anger against us.

A bit more and the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away.

The snare was broken and we were freed. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

Friday, 28 December 2018 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 John 1 : 5 – 1 John 2 : 2

We heard His message from Him and announce it to you : God is light and there is no darkness in Him. If we say we are in fellowship with Him, while we walk in darkness, we lie instead of being in truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we are in fellowship with one another, and the Blood of Jesus, the Son of God, purifies us from all sin.

If we say, “We have no sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He Who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from our wickedness. If we say that we do not sin, we make God a liar, His word is not in us.

My little children, I write to you that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an Intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One. He is the sacrificial Victim for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Matthew 2 : 13-18

After the wise men had left, an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the Child in order to kill Him.”

Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and left that night for Egypt, where He stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled : I called My Son out of Egypt.

When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood who were two years old or under. This was done in line with what he had learnt from the wise men about the time when the star appeared.

In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled : A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation : Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 123 : 2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8

Had not the Lord been on our side, when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive; such was their anger against us.

A bit more and the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away.

The snare was broken and we were freed. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.