The Feast of the Holy Innocents
[Scripture Readings: 1 Jn 1:5-2:2, Mt 2:13-18]
What better words could a professor offer to the avid student than the statement: “You are exempt from the final examination. You did so well during the past semester that you are head and shoulders above the others”?
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Herod believed the words of the Magi and of the high priests whom he consulted. He sees a rival in the Infant of Bethlehem, and jealously pursues the Child, born King of the Jews. It is the God-King that the Innocents confess by dying.
They were exempt from growing up and leading a normal life but they were not exempt from a violent death. Jesus would have a chance to grow to manhood but he was not exempt from a violent death. Their mothers were not told why this slaughter came about. All it took was a surprise raid by the military to dispatch them as quickly as possible. A violent death has been bestowed on a multitude of martyrs who are witnesses to their faith in Jesus down the centuries. They were exempt from living longer, the call to an heroic act of faith proved far stronger.
In the introductory rite of today’s liturgy it is written that these innocent children were slain for Christ. They follow the spotless Lamb and proclaim forever: “Glory to You, Lord.” Some might not be exempt from living a long life, but the often quoted passage from St. Irenaeus continues to say it well, “The glory of God is man fully alive. And the glory of man is the vision of God.” This is the sheer delight of every student who wants to graduate with honors.