They Were Innocents Too

Feast of the Holy Innocents

First Reading: 1 John 1:5—2:2

This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ
and proclaim to you:
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we say, “We have fellowship with him,”
while we continue to walk in darkness,
we lie and do not act in truth.
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light,
then we have fellowship with one another,
and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
If we say, “We are without sin,”
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.
If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar,
and his word is not in us.

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.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 124:2-3, 4-5, 7CD-8

R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.
Had not the LORD been with us—
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Gospel: Matthew 2:13-18

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.


dec 28

My oldest living child was born on the feast of the Holy Innocents. On the day we remember those beautiful boys slaughtered for one broken man’s greed, my oldest child—our rainbow baby—came screaming into the world. A whole generation of a whole city annihilated in one day. As they laid my newborn daughter on my chest, a new world, a new name was opened to me.

Mother. Motherhood. The feeling of your heart living outside of your body, walking freely in the fragile flesh of your child. Imagine all the mothers of Bethlehem following the obliteration of their hearts, their precious babies. Rachel wept for her children, and we do too, whether or not we birthed them.

Now imagine the same situation two thousand years later. Instead of Herod’s mad grab for power, the twisted cult known as ISIS. Instead of the sweet babies of Jerusalem being slaughtered, the pain is felt by the children and mothers of Syria. I have heard you all weeping for the fragile flesh of these children. I have seen your mother’s heart in emphatic postings, in the time taken to box and mail slings to a mother’s living a nightmare.

Or the millions of children lost around the world to abortion, poverty, and sub-human living conditions. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, for whom we have prepared our hearts to welcome during Advent, we make room for them too. In our minds and our hearts. Especially in our prayers.

We, like Rachel, remember and mourn the children who are no more, and this remembering, this lamentation, invites us to care even more for all of God’s children.

Pray today in a special way for all families and communities which have lost children due to power, greed, and sin.

Sarah Babbs is a writer and mother of three, including twin toddlers. She writes about faith, social teaching, and navigating life as a motherless daughter and mother. You can find out more about her here.

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