Today the Church once more gathers around the manger of Bethlehem. We’ve been lulled by the joyous refrain of the angels, “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” but today we are suddenly sobered by a shrill and murderous cry, as every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two is killed by the command of King Herod. We know that the fifth commandment forbids murder. We are to refrain from acts of violence, vengeance and revenge. Obviously Herod violated this commandment when he ordered the slaughter of these innocent baby boys.
We, too, live in a culture infected by physical violence against children, both born and unborn. Can we not see the vivid connection of today’s ‘holy innocents’ to the slaughter to these Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, these “infant martyr flowers,” who have “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb?”
While the fifth commandment absolutely forbids us from killing innocent life, it also obliges us, over and above this, to promote the spiritual welfare of our neighbor. So then, Herod’s war against the Infant King is not only physical; it is also spiritual, for Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. And just as Herod once attacked the children associated with Christ, so too, today, our children are under spiritual attack.
Today Holy Mother Church makes pilgrimage to the stational church of St. Paul’s in Rome to kneel and pray before the sarcophagus of the Holy Innocents, where five of these infant martyrs are venerated. Having prayed with the Church before their tomb, let us rise from our knees, fortified by their intercession, to go forth and be bold defenders of our most precious gift, our children, who are being physically and spiritually attacked today.
Let us pray to the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, these saintly children, who are “without spot before the throne of God,” and join in their song of praise: “Laudate pueri Dominum.” “Praise the Lord, ye children, praise ye the name of the Lord.”