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Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs
Saturday, the Fourth Day of the Christmas Octave
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, it is difficult to understand why the shedding of innocent blood had to take place in the unfolding of salvation history, but we see in it a foreshadowing of your own innocent blood shed for us. These children, by their very lives, gave witness and testimony that the innocent suffer because of evil in the world. I know by faith that you will right every wrong, no matter how big or small, and wipe away every tear for all eternity.
- Sin: When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi his fury was unleashed to the fullest measure. This reading graphically depicts that innocents suffer consequences when we overindulge our passions. Sin, when in full bloom, always brings about death. Herod’s pride was wounded. What stirs your passions beyond the point of self-control? Let us be ever mindful that our sin caused the death of God’s own beloved Son. Only by his Passion and Resurrection are we redeemed, and for that, we must remain forever humble and eternally grateful.
- Not Fair: Life is so often not fair. We have probably personally experienced this truth. Celebrating this memorial reminds us that God sees, hears, and knows our suffering and our sorrow. But through them, because of Jesus’s Death and Resurrection, we can unite our pain to his on the cross and he can, as it is written in the prayer, I Choose to Breath the Breath of Christ, “charge my senseless sorrows with meaning and make my pain pregnant with power.”
- God Is Not Surprised: These deaths fulfilled a six-hundred-year-old prophecy. God is never caught off guard. He knows. And in spite of what circumstances in moments like these may seem to indicate, he is still in control. Some things are beyond our human reason or ability to ever understand. And God allows our faith to be tested. Will we trust him when things do not go according to our plans? He still reigns on his throne.
Conversing with Christ: Dear Lord, I am humbled. I confess I do not always understand your ways, but I trust you. Help me to love and trust you more.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take a good look at my own passions and see where I need to ask for an added measure of grace to help to combat them, trusting that you can and will redeem all things for your glory.
For Further Reflection: The Anima Christi, a good post-communion meditation:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O Good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Permit me not to be separated from Thee
From the wicked foe defend me
At the hour of my death call me
And bid me come to Thee
That with Thy saints I may praise Thee
For ever and ever. Amen.
Melissa Overmyer is a convert to Catholicism; founder of the Georgetown Women’s Bible Study and Something Greater Ministries; and author of Born to Soar, Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life, a weekly blog at www.somethinggreater.net, and daily posts on IGTV (melissaovermyer). She is working on her master’s degree in Theology at Augustine Institute.