Saturday, 28 December 2019 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the innocent martyrs of the time of the Lord’s coming into the world, those children below the age of two years old in the town of Bethlehem, the place where the Lord was born over two millennia ago according to the prophets. Those children were killed by the order of the king of Judea and Galilee then, king Herod the Great.

King Herod heard of the star that appeared over the town of Bethlehem from the three Magi who was on their way to find the star, and the king asked his advisors and the priests on the matter, who confirmed with him how the signs all pointed out to the coming of the Messiah prophesied in the Scriptures and the Torah, as the prophets had all proclaimed Him and spoke of the time and circumstances of His coming.

King Herod became afraid of the news of the coming of this Messiah, Whom the Jews believed to be the descendant and therefore Heir of king David of Israel, the once powerful and mighty King who ruled over all the people of Israel. According to the prophecies, the Messiah would restore Israel and rule over David’s kingdom and sit on his throne as his rightful Heir, and God would make His reign forever secure.

Instead of welcoming the coming of the Lord and True King of all as prophesied, king Herod succumbed to his fear, his anger, his jealousy, his desires and greed, his hubris and ambition, as he was often known for, and sought to destroy this King before He could become a threat to his own power and kingdom. That was why he sent the troops to destroy the King, ordering them to kill all infants and newborns aged two and below.

For us to understand even more clearly in context of what happened, we must also know that king Herod himself was a usurper of the righteous king, who before king Herod’s ascent to power, was the Hasmonean kings of Judea, the descendants of the Biblical Maccabees. The Maccabees as described in the Book of Maccabees led the rebellion against the tyranny of the Greek Seleucid kings and eventually won independence for the Jewish nation, and their descendants eventually became kings.

King Herod belonged to the Idumean people, a non-Jew himself, coming from the desert regions bordering both Judea and Arabia. He came to power by riding on the coattails of the Roman Republic, who under one of its generals, Pompey the Great, came to conquer the provinces and territories of Syria, and eventually, through political manoeuvres, overthrew the Hasmonean kings, and the reign of king Herod the Great was established.

Thus, all these historical facts coupled with the many grandiose projects king Herod undertook, such as the rebuilding and expansion of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, expansion of the city of Jerusalem itself and building of new cities such as Caesarea and also buildings named in his own honour like the Herodion, showed how insecure king Herod was, and how much he desired power, glory, fame and worldly honour.

That was why, he acted in such an evil and wicked manner, to preserve and protect himself from his supposed ‘Enemy’, the King Who was to come and born in Bethlehem, by killing all the innocent children hoping that this King would be killed alongside the other children, without any regards for the sanctity of human life and just how wicked that action had been in the eyes of God and men alike.

Then we may also be wondering, why God allowed such a great tragedy to happen? Why did He allow the innocent children to be slaughtered? Surely He could have done something to prevent it? But this is where then we must understand that while God is all powerful and mighty, He also gave us all, each and every one of us free will and the freedom to choose what we are to do with our own lives.

King Herod chose freely of his own free will to commit such a heinous and evil action, and his abuse of the freedom that God has granted him, the authority and power entrusted to him therefore is the culprit behind the evil deeds and all the sufferings suffered by the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem and their families. This is a classic example of how power and earthly glory can corrupt and lead us into sin, if we allow them to overcome us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the tragedy of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem was not the only tragedy that happened in this world. So many wars, conflicts and all sorts of actions had happened throughout the history of mankind and civilisation, because men chose to abuse the freedom and the privileges given to them by God, misusing the power and authority entrusted to them to satisfy their own needs over the sufferings of others.

And we ourselves may also be to blame for this, as surely at some point in our lives we have also acted in manner that cause others to suffer for the sake of our happiness and enjoyment. If we want to blame or look down on King Herod for having committed such a terrible evil and crime, perhaps we may want to look at ourselves first before that. Have we ourselves lived worthily in our faith? Have we acted in ways that bring glory to God and happiness to everyone and not just to ourselves?

Let us all reflect on this even as we rejoice in this joyful Christmas season. Let us seek to make our Christmas celebrations meaningful and filled with the true joy of Christ and not the fleeting joy and greed of the world, the same greed and desire that brought king Herod and so many other sons and daughters of mankind into sin. Let us all turn away from excessive attachments to worldly pleasures and desires, especially in this Christmas time and season, putting our focus and attention back on the Lord, our God and Saviour.

May God be with us always and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, so that we may resist the temptations of pride, greed, hubris, ambition, and all the things that often led us to sin, to manipulation and the harming of others. May God bless our Church and the world today, that true faith in God may triumph over the greed of mankind. Amen.

Saturday, 28 December 2019 : 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.

Saturday, 28 December 2019 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 123 : 2-3, 4-5, 7b-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.

Saturday, 28 December 2019 : 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.

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.