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28th Dec: Holy Innocents


28th December 2019, Saturday, Holy Innocents, Martyrs
1 John 1:5 - 2:2 / Matthew 2:13-18

I have been redeemed: Jesus’ blood purifies us.
There’s a story about a man who dove into a raging river to rescue a drowning boy. Miraculously, the man survived; even more miraculously, the boy was saved. After the boy had recovered from the ordeal, he said to the man, “Thank you, sir, for saving me from the river.” The man put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and said, “That’s okay, son! Just make sure your life was worth saving.” What that man said to the boy, Jesus could say to each one of us here.

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How are we trying to live so as to make our life worth saving by Jesus? “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing I can do, or any kindness that I can show a human being, let me do it now and not defer it. For I shall not pass this way again.” (Attributed to Stephen Grellet, 1855) ‘Cyril Egan, “A Kind of Prayer,” in America (September 21, 1963). Reprinted by permission of America magazine.
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The first day of Christmas, the Church celebrated the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first Christian to witness to Christ with his life. The second day of Christmas, the Church honoured St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, who emphasized the divinity of Christ. These two men went into Biblical history and Church history as men who who faithful to God and walked in His ways.

Today, we come across a man who was a tragedy to himself and he caused tragic consequences. Because of his pathological state of mind and his paranoia, he ordered the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem, and it counted as nothing for him.

And this makes us reflect on the horrible deeds that are done to children and the unborn: child abuse, child labour, child pornography, abortion, infanticide. All this also counted as nothing for those who committed such atrocities and heinous crimes against children.

The feast of the Holy Innocents does not just recall the innocent infants being martyred for Christ. Because their blood now cries out for the children of the world who are suffering and being traumatized.

We will recall the 20 young children and 6 teachers who were innocently gunned down a few years ago in Sandy Hook elementary school, Newtown, USA.

The blood of innocent young children cries out for the children of the world and cries out to us. We have to teach and guide, protect and guard our children. If we cannot get that right, we will not be able to get anything right.

May God bless the children who are entrusted to us and may we care for them and guide them in the ways of the Lord. May Mother Mary and St. Joseph help us in this mission.
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Liturgy: HOLY INNOCENTS

Introduction

Today’s celebration shocks us into the realization that the birth of Christ was not all peace and joy. The coming of Jesus was the beginning of a struggle-to-death between the powers of evil and the kingdom of light, a struggle that would have its climax in the passion and death of Jesus. Herod stands here for the forces of evil. Even innocent children are often the victims of this enmity.
The story of the Innocents may very well be a theological illustration of Matthew on this climactic clash between good and evil that began with the birth of Jesus. Often, the innocents have to suffer on account of so much evil in the world caused by other people.

Opening Prayer

Lord, our God,
today’s innocent martyrs
bore witness to you
not by proclaiming your name in words
but by laying down their lives for you,
even though they were not aware of it.
We pray to you on their feast
that we may bear witness to you
both by the words we speak
and the way we live what we believe in.
May we do so in the full awareness
of what we are doing.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord.

Intercessions:
– That children may be spared from suffering, malnutrition and maltreatment, we pray to God our merciful Father:
– That children may not become the victims of unloving parents, who do not want them, abandon them or desert them as they separate from each other, we pray:
– That children may have caring parents, who help them to grow toward a generous and rich adulthood, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts:
We bring these our gifts before you, Lord God;
accept them from your faithful people,
that we may be strengthened in our faith.
May they also bring your salvation
to those whom we sometimes call anonymous Christians,
those who do not know you,
yet who seek you with a sincere heart
by trying to do what is right and good.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord.

Prayer after Communion:
Lord, God of eternal light,
we all share in the struggle-to-death
between light and darkness.
Let the light of your love and peace
shine among people all over the world,
that our solidarity in the evil of sin
may be changed into a new solidarity
of justice, forgiveness and community
by the coming among us of your Son,
Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Blessing:
We ask the Lord today that he may bless our children, that they may grow up as God’s children, as good Christians and good citizens. May Almighty God bless them and you all, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Commentary:
Interpreting the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi as a threat to his royal position, Herod orders the death of all male children in Bethlehem under two years old. Matthew is keenly interested in pointing up likenesses between Jesus and Moses and draws here a striking parallel to the pharaoh’s order to destroy the Hebrew male offspring at the time of Moses’ birth in Egypt.
The death of innocent children, whether in biblical times or our own, strikes us deeply as a real injustice. It is a grim fact that children continue to be subjected to barbarous deaths. In very recent times, from the former Yugoslavia in Europe to Rwanda in Africa, ethnic cleansing has made victims of helpless women and children. In the troubled Middle East, suicide bombers indiscriminately take the lives of innocent people, including children. And, despite all the talk of limited tactical strikes, war takes the lives of all too many noncombatants. The fact is that children are often the first to perish.
In addition, today’s feast reminds us of the innocent lives that are taken through abortion. Today more and more voices are being raised on behalf of the voiceless. Whatever the reason for an abortion, it is the innocent who suffer. It is not a sectarian issue; it is a human one.
We cannot pass over the reading from John’s epistle without touching on one of its issues. Life in the Spirit is granted through initial recognition of sin and guilt. But today’s reading makes clear that even after baptism, sin frequently occurs. In such a case our heavenly Intercessor stands with us in seeking forgiveness. So much emphasis in the New Testament falls on initial justification that we are often led to wonder if there is a “second plank after shipwreck.” The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Even with the best of intentions, we all stumble along the way. While not rejecting Christ, we do not always live up to what he asks of us. It is good to know that the helping hand of Christ is there to lift us up.

Points to Ponder:
The death of innocent children in our day
The child in the womb
Violence in the world today
The sacrament of reconciliation.