A Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, who lived shortly after the time of Jesus, called King Herod a “man of great barbarity.” King Herod was the puppet king of Israel when Jesus was born. Afraid of losing his power when he heard from the Magi that a new king had been born, he “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under” (Matthew 2: 16). Jesus escaped when His parents fled with Him to Egypt. Thus the Son of God began His earthly life under the threat of murder and as a refugee. With the Holy Innocents in mind today, we pray for the children of our world, that they may be respected and preserved from all violence and exploitation. We also pray for harmony and peace among all people. Our reflection is from Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s book “Behold, He Comes.”
If the death of Stephen is a startling contrast to the joy of Christ’s birth, then today’s message seems a complete contradiction of the whole account of the coming of the Prince of Peace. … Why is it here amid Christmas carols and family visits in the middle of Christmas week? I think it is because the Christian must be prepared to have the good news of Christ challenged, not only by the unbelief of men but also by the darkest possible events of life. This sorrowful day is a reminder of all the persecutions, all the tyrannies, all the atrocious evils that can and will happen in the centuries ahead. The coming of the Prince of Peace did not stop criminal abominations like Auschwitz, or even natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes.
The cries of slaughtered children, called so poetically the Holy Innocents, echo loudly through our time. For those deeply committed to the cause of life this is a day of pilgrimage and prayerful reparation and fervent petition to end the slaughter of children in our own time. In Bethlehem there could have been no more than a few dozen baby boys under two years of age. The ranks have swelled to tens of millions of babies legally killed and dismembered in a way that eerily reminds us of the medieval painting of that terrible event. The Holy Innocents call to Christians over the centuries to raise their voices against evil and injustice. Christ’s peace is not a passive state of dreamy harmony that one sees in living-room paintings. Christ’s peace is the victory prize in a relentless conflict lasting until the end of the world. But the believer has hope in the ultimate victory….