Feast of the Holy Innocents
(I John 1:5-2:2; Matthew 2:13-18)
Faced with moral evil, we ask, “How could God permit this?” When we saw that policeman kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, we asked “How could God permit this?” When we hear stories of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, we ask, “How could God permit this?” When Mohammad Atta and other terrorists caused the horror of 9-11, we asked, “How could God permit this?” Today’s gospel suggests an answer.
The slaughter of innocent children sounds outrageous. There is no historical record of it except this account in Matthew. But it is like other atrocities committed by King Herod. The tyrant murdered several members of his family, including his wife and sons. In any case, it has been noted why God might have permitted the slaughter of the Innocents. First though, we must recognize that God never causes people to sin. Sin is a human project although evil spirits may be involved. Yet God can embrace sin to bring about His intended good. In the story of the Innocents, their death allowed Jesus to escape the wicked king’s pursuit. He will die thirty years later so that they might know eternal life.
The story of the martyred Innocents injects into the joy of Christmas a foreboding of the sorrow of Holy Week. It admonishes us to temper our festivity by remembering the purpose of God becoming human. Jesus was born to set us free from sin and death. His dying on the cross and rising from the dead give us new purpose in life and a new destiny.