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A Man to Protect the Innocent
Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs
When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son. When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.
Opening Prayer: Lord, thank you for this opportunity to come before you in prayer. Help me to continue to celebrate your birth during this octave of Christmas. May I draw from this sobering story in today’s reading some guidance for my day.
- Jesus Born into Difficult Times: Herod had temporal power and wielded it carelessly, resulting in the slaughtering of innocent children. How often it happens that those in power make decisions that seem senseless in our eyes. The death of these innocent infants, however, was not in vain. They were the first witnesses to the reality of the contradiction of Christ and, in this, also received their reward as martyrs. Jesus comes near when we offer him the small sufferings we endure daily. Our sufferings might, in fact, require enduring the tyranny of difficult leaders, as did this generation. What does it look like to witness to Christ when not everyone rallies around us? How are we living this Christmas season witnessing to Christ?
- Joseph Responded to the Prompting of God: St. Joseph was given the mission of guardian to the Redeemer. He used his whole humanity–his power, his strength, his skill in carpentry, and his discipline in prayer–to carry out his work as a father and provider. He was very aware of the need to respond to the inspirations God gave him. In this moment, Joseph put his trust in God and responded promptly to what the dream revealed to him. He knew his docility would require building a new, temporary life in Egypt for his family, and it must have taken courage for him to go forward. In our own life, there are things God asks of us that take courage. We can call on St. Joseph for strength to do Our Lord’s will no matter how inconvenient.
- Jesus Was Guarded by a Father: Although Jesus was God, he was given and needed the gift of an earthly father in the person of St. Joseph. Joseph’s loving care and concern for the Blessed Mother and her infant Jesus weren’t recorded in the Scriptures. Nor were his sacrifices for the daily provision for his family. It’s possible that Joseph felt insignificant and unequipped for his role as Jesus and Mary’s guardian. At times we can feel insignificant and wonder if our “yes” to the Lord matters? Just as Our Lord selected St. Joseph to parent Jesus, he has chosen us to know, love, and serve him in this time and place. Nothing–no action of ours–is insignificant if it is offered to the Lord with love. As Brother Lawrence says, “We can do little things for God…It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”
Conversing with Christ: Dear Lord, there are men in this world who do not protect the innocent, who fail to stand firm and strong in virtue. This could be disconcerting, but I also know there are good and truly humble and holy men like St. Joseph, who strive to love and protect the innocent. Thank you, Lord, for all people who stand up for the truth in this age. May I have the strength, the courage, and the faith to imitate St. Joseph in his protection of the innocent, and in the humble, quiet work of everyday life he no doubt offered up to you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I want to witness to my faith in you when the moment presents itself. Come Holy Spirit.
For Further Reflection: This reflection highlights St. Joseph’s life and mission and how it’s relevant in today’s world.
Heidi Seubert was a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi until her death in December 2021. She most recently served in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was devoted to accompanying young adults in school and parish settings, and leading retreats, youth work, and pilgrimages.