Grace to you and Merry Christmas!
I hope you are enjoying the joyful spirit of the Christmas season.
I would love to share with you a reflection based on a terrifying story from the bible. It is the gruesome murder of The Holy Innocents by the so-called Herod the Great who (according to the popular historian of Ancient history, Josephus) was the Roman appointed king of Israel from around 40 BC to 4 AD. The story is recorded only in the gospel of Matthew 2:13-18. No one is sure of the number of children murdered at his command, but certainly many. The church honors the lives of those children every 28th of December.
A little background information about the Herod could serve as a prelude. Herod the Great was one of the bloodiest tyrants in Israelite history, and historical records (from Josephus) show he murdered many of his own family members, including his favorite wife, her grandfather, her brother, and some of his own children. History also shows he married ten wives; and on one occasion, hemmed in an entire Sanhedrin (that is, those in a courtroom, similar to a jury, the attorneys and the judge deciding a case) and assassinated them for not favoring his interest in a case. He did similar things to the nobles of Jerusalem when he wasn’t sure of their loyalty. He was a bloodthirsty murderer. Jesus was born when this Herod was the King of Israel.
Whenever I read the story of the murder of The Holy Innocents, my heart sinks and my stomach is upset because it is horrible. One may be wondering why would this leader of a people want to kill innocent children, all the children from and under the age of two? Many reasons could be discerned based on the bible’s narrative of this story and a little background information about the so-called Herod the Great.
First, Herod was obsessed with power. Hence, he was ruthless in dealing with any imagined or real threat to his power and kingship. That was why his was a history of serial murders, neither sparing his wife and family nor the noble men in Jerusalem, and finally many innocent babies in Bethlehem. Obsession with power is a dangerous thing, and if not checked, it could cause untold harm to the person, his or her family and to society. They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. God save us from excessive thirst for power.
Connected to obsession with power is obsession for economic control. Many suppose that with money, power could be built and sustained; and those who have power try to control the ways and means of wealth. We hear nowadays that what works is only what is economically profitable, measured by cash flow and economic security. When Herod was, therefore, imagining that the birth of Jesus would threaten his power, one could guess Herod was equally concerned about who controls the economy; who controls the money. Politics of economy, without reference to fundamental value of life, is very dangerous.
Finally, there is recklessness in relation to life. When power and economy are sole drivers of people’s interest in society, whether in politics, in schools, in churches and even in the family, life suffers because, intentionally or inadvertently, there seems to be recklessness against the Sacredness of Life, as well as respect and love for one another. If we are reckless about life, we are desensitized to the reality of how precious life is, and like Herod, anything goes. The unborn baby wouldn’t have a chance, nor would senior citizens, two groups who are the most vulnerable in our society.
Save life. Love life. Live life. Life is precious.
May God save us from obsession for power and for money and grants us the favor to love and treasure life, from the natural conception to natural death. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.