The Feast of the Holy Innocents: The Gospel according to Matthew


“When the magi had departed, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.

Herod is going to search fo the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled. OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. They was fulfilled what had been Sid through Jeremiah the prophet:

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.”

I remember many years ago, when the United States was hip deep in a war with Viet Nam. There was a phrase coined then that spoke of the idea that goals were more important than people: “Collateral Damage.” Collateral Damage referred to children and others who were not actively involved in the fighting, but were wounded or killed nonetheless. World War II presented a similar scenario, where millions of non-combatants were wounded or killed as a necessary way to achieve military goals. Throughout history, this has been a reality when power seeks power. The Gospel today speaks of this approach to life.

When people who thirst for power (wealth – affirmation) feel threatened, they strike out at those threats – who are viewed, not as persons, but as disposable things. Jesus, threatened the Roman Empire and those who depended on the empire for their acquisitions of prestige and wealth, was put to death on a cross, as a sign to others. Eventually, the Roman Army marched into Jerusalem and destroyed the entire city due to other threats. Empire builders are fed when they can move into other nations or peoples and simply by force, steal their wealth for themselves. Historically, we see this played out time and time again throughout the world.

Those in power, enjoy their status, are never satisfied. Children are sacrificed, families are destroyed. When clergy or others sexually abuse children, they feel safe within their positions of power or status. When men feel free to abuse women, they too feel safe and justified by their positions of power. When over 2,000 children are held in concentration camps, removed from their families, by those who somehow feel threatened by a loss of power or status, they feel justified and blame the children. When these children are taken from their families, denied proper health care, food and water, and most of all the love of their parents, they are seen as pawns or just things – they are no longer “persons.”

We live in a world today where it is very simple to view others as “things” and non-persons to be disposed of. Corporations and other Structures of Power use the talents and work of people and then dispose of them as soon as they become expendable. Slavery exists today throughout the world, and as long as they provide cheap and expendable labor, that seems to be acceptable. I realize that many individuals do not accept the scriptures, but there is one strong and over-riding message found there: that all people, male and female, are made in the image and likeness of God, and are sacred and holy. Because of this, we are called to treat others the way that we would want to be treated: to love the Creator and to love one another, helping each other along the way.

We, as people, can choose the kingdom of Herod/Caesar or we can choose the kingdom of God, the Creator who gives us the gift of responsibility of loving care and stewardship over all of creation. People are not collateral damage; people are persons, made in the image and likeness of God.

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