The Holy Innocents, Naked and Unafraid
by Fr. Benedict Solomon, O.Praem.
“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…”
I read a homily from a non-Catholic pastor called “The Cowardly Wise Men.” This pastor, apparently never actually having read the twelfth verse of the second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, missed the part about the wise men being warned in a dream not to return to Herod. So he blamed the murder of the children on their cowardice. His purpose, I think, was to motivate people to protect the lives of the innocent by overcoming their fear and standing up to rulers who are willing to destroy life. Unfortunately, he had to corrupt scripture, lead people astray, and defame the Holy Magi in the process.
Among other things, this feast tells us of the power of disordered fear—not the fear of the Magi, but the fear of Herod. Fear causes us to commit many sins. Fear of being without the necessities of life causes people to justify luxury and greed. Fear of losing control can cause people to be angry and harsh. People fear suffering, getting old, getting sick, gaining weight. They fear what other people think. People lie, cheat, steal, and kill out of fear.
When Adam and Eve were in the garden, they hid themselves. They heard God in the garden, and they were afraid, because they were naked. So God clothed them. Then, so that man would no longer be afraid of Him, God clothed himself in human flesh, and appeared as a naked baby. And so that we would trust Him, He again made Himself naked—on the cross—so that, as He had clothed Himself in our nature, so we would clothe ourselves with Him, and our nature would be renewed by His grace.
But Herod was still afraid, not because he was naked, but because he was clothed in worldly power and riches, and was afraid that this naked baby would take everything away from him.
The Holy Innocents were too young to be afraid of death and too young to desire martyrdom, but because of their nakedness as children, their innocence, God clothed them with grace by a baptism of blood.
Like the Holy Innocents, may we not be afraid of God, and even trust in Him so that for His sake we might be willing to give up the world and everything in it—even our fear.
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