Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs
(I John 1:5-2:2; Matthew 2:13-18)
Europe you might find
your car’s tires without any air today.
Or perhaps there will be three pizzas which you didn’t order, delivered
to your door. The Feast of the Holy
Innocents is Europe’s equivalent to the
American April Fools Day. It is a time
to play practical jokes on good-natured people.
Some may be shocked by the European frivolity on a day that memorializes the slaughter of children. Perhaps Holy Innocents Day jokesters just take to heart the belief that the infants have gone to God. “So why not rejoice?” they might ask. Somehow, however, that is just too casual an attitude. It fails to consider the grotesque injustice of the blood of children. It mocks, for example, the outrage at a public policy which permits abortion on demand. It begs the question, “Why be born at all?”
Catholics educated before Vatican II easily recite the answer to this last question. We live “to know, love, and serve God in this world and to be happy with him in the next.” The tragedy of children dying, then, is the irreversible equivalent of their minds being wasted. Dead children cannot come to know God very well. Yes, they should receive the beatific vision. And there might be something marvelous about seeing God through children’s eyes. But just as the art connoisseur will appreciate aspects of a Rubens painting that completely escape the uncultured so growing in wisdom should make us more enthralled at God’s glory. It is good to grow old if we accordingly grow in wisdom. Reciprocally, it is a tragedy when we die young.