Archive for December 28th, 2021


Written by Steve Grunow, a contemporary priest and CEO of Word on Fire Ministries.

The Gospel of Matthew is the only existing historical reference that mentions the massacre of the children of Bethlehem. It seems to have passed under the radar of historical concerns. This is not difficult to understand when we consider that the common people of Bethlehem did not merit much attention at all in a world controlled by the likes of Herod or Caesar. As such, their indignities and sufferings would not matter all that much to the historians of the time. Matthew tells us that Herod was seized by fear at rumors of a child born in Bethlehem that was the promised Messiah. If these rumors were true, such a revelation meant the end of Herod and his dynasty. Unable to discover the identity of this child, he ordered all the young children in the region around Bethlehem to be killed. We would probably rather not have the memory of such a terrible event interrupt our feelings of Christmas cheer, but the Church insists that we look at the total event of Christ’s coming into the world, and the death of these innocent children is not an incidental part of the story of the Incarnation.

Shadows lurked beneath the light of the star of Bethlehem. Sister Wendy Becket, in one of her reflections, begs us to consider the disturbing irony in all this. The Lord Jesus, who is to end his life by dying for others, begins his life with others dying because of him. His safety is assured, but his own mother’s happiness is preserved amidst the misery of others. We must always remember that the Holy Family begins their mission in exile, as refugees. The world in which they lived was not a safe or easy place. God accepting for himself a human nature made him vulnerable to all the trials and tribulations of life. Christ did this with full awareness of what it would all mean and what it would affect. He would have to accept not only the joy and glory of being human but our sorrow and sufferings as well. If we are looking for a spiritual lesson in all of this, it might be for us to understand that though we are overjoyed as Christians at the coming of Christ, many people do not share our sense of elation.  Cruel King Herod represents all the powers that stand against Christ. These powers are not just outside ourselves; they lurk within us all. There are parts of ourselves that want nothing to do with Christ and jealously guard their independence from any incursion of his will. The Gospel of John reminds us of this truth in the proclamation that the Lord “came to what was his own, but his own did not accept him.” This is not meant simply as a reference to those who, like Herod, refused the Lord centuries ago; it is meant for all of us to carefully consider. What aspects of our own lives and the lives of others are we ready to destroy because of our refusal of Christ? The story of Herod is meant as a warning to us in this regard.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 2:16-18

MUSIC VIDEO: Salvete Flores Martyrum

Performed by Collegium Instrumentale Brugense

Feast of the Holy Innocents painted by Fr. Warner D’Souza of Bombay, India

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