Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs
The Feast of the Nativity symbolizes the innocence of the incarnation as we celebrate the coming of Emmanuel. The powerful God of creation sent his only son to be a vulnerable child to dwell among us. Never mind what the infant mortality rate was two thousand years ago. Never mind that they did not have cars, heating or air conditioning. Never mind that there was no electricity, prenatal care, or birthing centers with sterile and somewhat comfortable birthing conditions. Jesus’ birth was at a disadvantage for all these reasons and one more. Today’s gospel reminds us that he was hated for who he was almost from the time of his birth. Yet, into this world, Christ was sent to bear witness to a loving God who wants to be one with us.
In our world, bearing witness to Jesus’ presence seems innocent enough. As we go to church and look at the crib, we are filled with childlike wonder and awe. And for many of us, this is how Christmas comes and goes. As we recall today’s feast, we realize the massacre of innocents is not just a past event. All we needed to do was turn on the news on Christmas Day to hear about the massacre going on in Syria. At home innocent die because of abortion. But there are so many other innocents in our country that need the support of the church as well. One in six children in the US do not know where their next meal is coming from. As we look at repealing the Affordable Care Act, we must advocate that those in poverty and the working poor including millions of children have a health care safety net. Holy innocents are all around.
The first reading today reminds us that our own innocence is dying when fail to acknowledge sin. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. Like the magi and Joseph in today’s gospel, we must recognize the messages God is sending to save us. It is in renouncing sin and bearing witness to Christ, that our God can rescue us from the snare of the fowler. It is in allowing our souls to again have child-like innocence, where sin has no power over us, that we can be saved. The massacres in Syria, like the massacre by Herod, are incredibly tragic events; yet, these events must not draw us further away from the light of Christ. These events can turn us to testify to the light. Through the death of martyrs, salvation is made know to the world.
It is a painful irony that through death new life rises. The innocent boys massacred in Jesus’ day gave cover to the Holy Family who fled to Egypt. Their death was not without purpose, as it foreshadows the death of our redeemer and his sacrifice for the salvation of the world. In the deaths of recent martyrs, their steadfast love for Christ, call us to recognize and fully bear witness to the light of Christ. Consider what in your life prevents you from testifying fully to the light of Christ? Pray through and with all of these holy innocents for the strength to walk firmly in Christ’s light.
"Loving and merciful God, we thank you for the gift of these first Christian Martyrs. We also pray for those who were recently martyred and for their families. Use these tragedies draw us to Your light and peace instead of darkness. Continue to call each us in particular ways to be bearers of peace. Holy Martyrs, pray for us. Amen!"
- Deacon Michael Montgomery