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Doctrines & Morals

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

1 Jn 1:5-2:2, Mt. 2:13-18. Today we mark the Feast of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, who were the infants aged two and below that had been massacred by Herod the Great in his futile attempts to destroy the infant King of Israel. Hence, Herod feared that his rule and power would be taken over from him and his family and handed over to this new King. Lacking in moral sense, Herod was prepared to murder innocent children to quash a minimal threat to his power. Modern 'Herods' exist in various capacities as they struggle for power and sacrifice any number of people just to keep themselves in power or relevant. This style of kingship, the dictatorship of Herod, was the polar opposite of the kingship that Jesus came to proclaim, the kind of authority suited to the Kingdom of God. This finds expression not in commanding but in the humble service of others.

Contextually, we can understand his actions better if we know more on how Herod the Great rose to power. He was born as the son of Antipater the Idumaean, a high ranking official in the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom hailing from the region south of Israel known then as Idumaea or the ancient Edom, the neighbouring state bordering the land of Israel. According to historical traditions, the ancestors of Herod converted to the Jewish faith and dwelled among the descendants of Israel in Judea. Herod usurped the rightful rule over Judea and the other traditional lands of Israel from the Hasmonean kings, the descendants of the Maccabees who won independence for the Jewish people a century prior. Herod seized power from the last of the Hasmonean kings, he forcibly took one of the Hasmonean princesses as his wife. His rule in Judea and beyond was characteriszed with its megalomaniac nature and immense building projects, such as the rebuilding of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, also known colloquially as Herod’s Temple. Herod’s preoccupation with building such grand scale projects was a reflection of his great fear of being treated as a usurper. The moment Herod heard about the coming King of Israel through the Magi, he began to do all that he could to find out more about the coming King, the Messiah of God. Today's first reading declares: “If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth.” We have to be at alert to the different ways we can fail to take that path of humble, self-emptying, service of others which is the way of Jesus, the way of God.

May the Lord save all children from modern day 'Herod' and help us to resist the temptations of pride, greed, ambition and all that often led us to sin! Amen!! Good morning and have a blessed day!!!

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