For the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28
1 John 1:5 to 2:2
Herod “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.”
Notice the title the Church gives to them: the Holy INNOCENTS.
Not “Children,” not “Babies,” not “Infants,” not “Boys.”
Rather, the “Holy INNOCENTS.”
They were not old enough to judge right from wrong.
“The Holy Innocents.”
Innocent though they were of committing sin, they were nonetheless marked by the original sin of mankind.
However, Jesus, who was their age, did not have that mark.
Today’s first reading tells us that Christ, as God:
is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
When the light of Christ began to shine in the darkness of the world, the darkness sought to overcome it.
The darkness in Herod sought to destroy Jesus.
Without knowing it, the Holy Innocents died for the sake of Christ.
So, the Church honors them as martyrs.
Although the Holy Innocents did not make a choice, they died in the name of Christ.
They died in the place of Christ.
The Son of God had made a choice to come into the world.
He who was innocent chose to die in the name and in the place of us sinners.
The first reading today says:
He is expiation for our sins
Being adult sinners, you and I cannot begrudge the Holy Innocents the right to be honored for the sake of Christ in whose name Herod slaughtered them.
Jesus himself said:
whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine,
you did for me.
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.
On another occasion:
Jesus called a child over,
placed it in the midst of his disciples, and said....
“whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
The deaths of the Holy Innocents pointed forward to the death of innocent Christ who was their brother by place and time of birth.
An ancient hymn for the Holy Innocents greets them as our fellow worshippers in heaven.
Hail, blossoms of the Martyrs, who
Had scarcely seen the light,
When cruel tyrant cut you off,
As storms fresh roses blight.
First victims of the newborn Christ,
Young flock, with crowns and palms,
You play before his altar throne,
And chant your joyous psalms.
As they worship Christ face to face, we ask them to pray for us who, unlike them, have achieved a long list of years and sins that separate us from holiness and innocence.
Today’s first reading tells us to celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ as source of holiness and innocence.
My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
The Blood of [God’s] Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.