Worldly powers did not take long to oppose Jesus! Mary and Joseph were rejoicing over their newborn son when suddenly, they were forced to flee during the night to a foreign land to protect the child who would save the world.
Scholars believe that about twenty male babies were slaughtered by King Herod’s forces. These children were among the first to gain entrance into paradise. As the opening prayer for this feast says to God our Father: “The Holy Innocents offered you praise by the death they suffered for Christ.”
This feast reminds us that although the powers of darkness rage against the light of Christ, Jesus is always the victor. Through the dream given to Joseph, the Holy Family was able to keep Jesus safe. The babies that died are honored as martyrs by the church, and today they sing in heaven the praises of their rightful King. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
For centuries, saints and scholars have compared Herod’s rage against the children of Bethlehem to the devil’s rage against the children of God. Just as Herod perceived Jesus as a rival to his kingship, so Satan sees us as a threat to his influence in the world. What could be more frightening to Satan than the thought of men and women in every nation filled with the grace and power of the Holy Spirit? No wonder he seeks to destroy our faith and trust in Jesus!
Scripture calls us to take up the weapons of God and engage in the spiritual battle every day (Ephesians 6:10-17). We have the word of God as a sword capable of cutting through the lies of the devil, and faith in Jesus as a shield against the devil’s flaming darts. By protecting our minds with the truth of our salvation in Christ, we can bring our thoughts and actions into obedience with Jesus. We need never fear the devil. No matter how insidious he is, Jesus is infinitely more powerful. Let us rest in Christ and allow him to abide in our hearts.
Points for Meditation
• Satan often works by sowing doubt in our minds about God’s word, hoping that we will water down the gospel. Have you entertained thoughts that your sins really aren’t all that bad, or that it’s okay to give in to a little temptation? If you are harboring such thoughts now, see them as tricks of the devil. Resist any temptations to set lower standards for yourself.
• King Herod felt threatened by the birth of one rumored to be the new king of the Jews because he was afraid of losing his kingdom. Thus, he could not receive what God wanted to give him because he couldn’t bear the thought of losing what he had. To receive the kingdom, we must relinquish anything that keeps us from Jesus, our true King. Ask the Lord to show you any lesser loves you have that might be interfering with surrendering your life freely to him.
• The feast of the Holy Innocents points to the truth that Christians will suffer in this life just as Jesus did. If you are undergoing suffering right now, ask God to help you see the fruit your suffering will bear, for yourself and for others. Ask God to help you persevere with joy, knowing that he will never abandon you.
Father, thank you for the gift of salvation. Help me to stay close to you and obey you. Let me hear your Holy Spirit speaking to me and directing my paths, so that I may always walk in your light. Thank you for your love and protection.
This is a selection from A Year of Celebration: Experiencing God through the Feast Days of the Church, ed. Patricia Mitchell (The Word Among Us Press, 2001).