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The Innocents

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Today's Feast of the Innocents commemorates the treachery of Herod who, in his desire to protect his throne, orders the murder of all baby boys in Bethlehem, thinking that he can thwart God's plan to provide a Savior for Israel. This decree prompts Joseph and Mary to flee into Egypt to protect the life of their child.

Matthew's infancy narrative differs from that of Luke in so many details. Of course, each evangelist uses the events surrounding the birth of Jesus to serve the purpose of their Gospel. Matthew portrays Jesus as the "new Moses," the new Law Giver. Because Moses "came out of Egypt," Matthew portrays Jesus in the same way. Moses was saved by the treachery of Pharoah who ordered the murder of all Hebrew males; Herod walks in his footsteps by ordering the murder of the male babies of Bethlehem. However, God's plan is not to be thwarted. Moses was saved by Pharoah's daughter who drew the baby out of the Nile. Jesus is saved by Joseph and Mary who flee to Egypt to escape the diabolical plan of Herod.

We are naturally appalled at the conduct of Pharoah and Herod. Yet our own conduct toward children, especially unborn children, is no less appalling. Daily we read of children who are abducted and later found murdered and lying in shallow graves. It seems as if there is one such story in every daily newspaper. Children are the most vulnerable of humans. It was so in Israel thousands of years ago; it is so in today's culture. While our hearts ache when we read of children who are dying of cancers and other terminal conditions, we are also horrified by the neighborhood shootings, the abductions, and the abuse of innocents throughout our world. Add to them the fact that thousands of children starve to death throughout our world, and we find ourselves no less guilty than Pharoah and Herod.

As we remember the innocent children of Bethlehem today, let us pray for the safety and health of children throughout our world. Let us ask God to instill in us a reverence for human life in all stages of development.

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