By FR. RANDY SLY
(Editor’s Note: Fr. Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and a priest with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (http://usordinariate.org) established by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, through the Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus.”
(Fr. Sly’s commentary below is reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.)
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (CATHOLIC ONLINE) — In the Octave of Christmas, just after celebrating life we remember death. On this, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, we remember the young boys aged two and under who were slaughtered at the order of Herod the Great to make sure a rival ruler would not live.
The magi, who traveled from the East to seek the newborn King of the Jews, told Herod about their mission. From this point on Herod would do anything in his power to make sure he maintained his place of authority.
He stopped at nothing, including the extinction of every male child that was two years of age or younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding region to assure no other king could arise. Prophecy or no prophecy, he was not going to let even God spoil his reign.
In recounting the event, Matthew chooses an interesting prophetic passage from Jeremiah to underscore its horror. “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”
The Old Testament prophet had described the lament of Rachel, Jacob’s youngest wife, when the Assyrians took the Jews — who were offspring of her child Joseph — away into captivity. Here the lament continues for her others, this time for the children who were slain by Herod’s men near her burial place.
When you think about the slaughter of these innocent children and the continuing slaughter of the unborn through the horrors of abortion, it becomes clear that they come from the same supreme act of selfishness. Even though Herod heard the message coming from the prophets of his own people, he had no desire to align his heart with the purposes of God.
Knowing the Messiah would be coming forth, he chose to attempt a counter-attack for the purposes of God. How futile, yet still he tried and innocent lives were lost in the process.
During this horror can you imagine the weeping and wailing of the mothers in Bethlehem? The soldiers came through and strategically combed the town as well as the surrounding region, killing every boy that met the criteria? It was truly a horror and all the while Herod wrung his hands in anticipation of the report that his word had been carried out.
For those of us who have fought the good fight in the pro-life trenches against the culture of death, this feast day and the souls of these innocent children have always meant a great deal. As martyrs, they remind us that, in our fallen world, there are many who will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo, even it if means the death of a child.
St. Matthew does not tell us how many children died for Christ, but whatever the number, they are considered the first martyrs for our Lord.
Recently, another massacre of innocents took place in Connecticut. The nation and our leaders were highly outraged, as well they should have been. For some selfish and sick reason, Adam Lanza, killed twenty children and six adults before taking his own life. We should be upset!
In fact, according to a story by the Associated Press, 561 children have been murdered between 2006 and 2010. But that number does not include another group of children who will not grow to adulthood — the unborn who were killed through abortion. We are approaching 56 million children, since 1973.
At the vigil for the Sandy Hook shooting victims, President Obama stated, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.
“But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. . . .”
I couldn’t agree more. Now, however, it is time for Catholics and other Christians to join together and form voice reminding our leaders that this same impetus should be focused on the victims of abortion as well. I want our leaders to shed a tear for the unborn as well.
So, why the duplicity? Why is there a holocaust of babies that goes on within a society that decries the shooting of other children? Widespread selfishness. These children would have been rivals for the attention mothers and fathers wanted to give to other interests and desires. Such challenges cannot be tolerated and so the child must go.
In Matthew’s account, “Herod and all Jerusalem” were upset with the report of the Magi. By “all Jerusalem,” the apostle was including the religious leaders of the city. They were willing to cooperate with Herod as they also would find their lives powerfully impacted should the Messiah actually come to power.
What a parallel today, as so many of our leaders have joined the genocide bandwagon to maintain the affections of the voting populace from the culture of death.
How different are the words of the Apostle Paul to the Church in Philippi. “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others.” (Phil. 2:3,4)
It is out of that call that we must continue to do whatever we can to turn the hearts of fathers and mothers to their unborn children and protect the lives of millions of holy innocents.
It would seem that those slaughtered by Herod are sharing that day with many others throughout the centuries. These are children who were killed because they were an inconvenience, a competition for time, attention, and love. Or in the case of Sandy Hook Elementary, simply school children who fell within the rifle sight of evil.
So how can we best honor these tiny martyrs?
Honor Their Sacrifice
By Our Life And Witness
First, we can make their sacrifice worthwhile through our commitment to Christ. Obviously, they did not die in vain, yet each one who honors Christ with his or her life and witness gives greater value to their offering.
I still remember many years ago having a conversation with a friend who had served in the Army during Vietnam. Since I was also a Vietnam Veteran (Navy) we had a lot to talk about.
He mentioned that he had been a gunner on a helicopter and had lost several friends during his time in-country. Upon his discharge, he said that for the longest time he felt badly that he had lived and they had not. He said the only thing that made their sacrifice worthwhile was for him to live his life as best as he could.
As Paul said to the Romans, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present yourself as a living sacrifice unto God which is your reasonable service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
There’s an old saying that the only problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps trying to climb down off the altar. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to Christ and not let convenience and comfort dull our spiritual senses.
Jesus reminded us of the work we must do to maintain the seed of His Word in our hearts. In the parable of the soils, it is the garden of the heart and, more particularly, the soil found there that must be cultivated. Depending on what our hearts are like, there is seed choked off by the weeds of other “stuff” found there, seed dried up due to the hardness and seed stolen by enemies of life.
Walk In The Light As
He Is In The Light
The children were not willing martyrs nor unwilling. They simply had no voice or decision to make. They were not only tiny martyrs; they were surprised by martyrdom.
While Herod was preparing for the slaughter, Joseph was warned to take Mary and the child to Egypt and wait. For all his cunning, the ruler had miscalculated the fact he was dealing with the God of the universe.
How often we forget that, when it comes to our faith, we are living in a supernatural world. We do not embrace a self-help approach where we can figure things out. Grace is much more effective; we can receive this grace from God as we partake of His love.
Just like Herod, we can forget that God is God and we’re not. He not only can inspire prophecy, He can make sure it comes true. How good it is to remember that through the sacraments we, too, participate in the supernatural dimension of the living God.
During his homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany in January of 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stated, “Herod is an unsympathetic figure to us, one we instinctively judge negatively because of his brutality. Yet we should ask ourselves whether there is not perhaps something of Herod in us too….
“We must remove all idea of rivalry from our minds and hearts, the idea that giving space to God is a limit to the self. We must open ourselves to the certainty that God is omnipotent love, which takes away nothing, which threatens nothing. Quite the contrary, He is the only One capable of offering us the chance to live a full life and to experience true joy.”
St. John states in our first reading, “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of His Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”
Walking in the light of our Lord’s teachings and trusting in His sacrifice for our sins form two key portions of our life in Christ. These are not simply tokens of information from one who is enlightened; we remain enlightened by what had taken place.
Speak For Those
Who Cannot Speak
St. Quodvultdeus, a bishop, wrote many centuries ago, “The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself.”
While the innocents had loving mothers and fathers, there was no one in authority who would or could speak for them. They were seen as property not persons and Herod wanted desperately to rid himself of a potential competitor for the crown.
For today’s society to take seriously the cause of the unborn, we have to rise up as a unified voice. This is paramount.
Every year at the March for Life, I am astounded by the sheer number of participants — particularly among the young. I’m floored by the enthusiasm of those who attend. The number is exponentially higher than what the mainstream media reports.
With all of this, however, we still need more voices from every face of Christianity working together. The culture of death needs to know this is not a feeble declaration; that there are many who speak for the unborn. This is the key!
Quodvultdeus ends his homily with the challenge. “How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.
The death of these tiny martyrs should stir us to action. They were innocent as were those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary and in other violent attacks.
The 56 million who have died through abortion share this same status of martyrdom. To them especially we owe a debt to continue to stand for Life no matter what. One-third of a generation has been killed and the shedding of blood hasn’t stopped.
“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”