Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the Feast of the Holy Innocents. This single feast makes the inner meaning of Christmas clearer than it ever would have been without it.
The Feast of the Holy Innocents shows how much God loves babies. All babies.
By coming to us as an infant at Christmas, God shows his own willingness to enter into the human family in all its weakness and vulnerability. Angels filled the air and magi from the East come to worship not a great man, but a newborn baby.
But it would be easy to dismiss this as an anomaly. It would be easy to think of Christmas like the story of Moses: A story about an exceptional baby that proves the rule that most babies are unexceptional.
Think of all the reasons the massacre of the innocents should be considered unimportant. They were only babies, after all, in a time when infant mortality was common. There were probably only a few of them and these were only a few of the many victims of a bloodthirsty king.
But the Holy Innocents are showered with praise in the Mass today.
We pray to “God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking but by dying.”
We say “they follow the Lamb and sing forever.”
We call them “the first fruits of the human race.”
If God loved these babies who had never been baptized, children of parents who never knew Christ, then he must love all babies.
The Holy Innocents show what it takes to be precious in God’s eyes.
If you ever thought you weren’t good enough to matter in the grand scheme of things, the Holy Innocents are here to show you that you are.
The culture says having a great personality, or a beautiful body, or being great at sports, is what makes us attractive. If you aren’t the life of the party, athletically inclined or particularly attractive, look at the Holy Innocents. They could do nothing but cry and nurse, and God loved them.
Aristotle said our ability to use our intellect with excellence is what makes us most human. If you don’t think you’re particularly smart, look at them. They never figured anything out except the newborn thoughts of “I’m hungry,” and “there’s Mother!” but that was enough for God.
The world says what you accomplish in life is what makes you important. If it seems like you haven’t done much with your life, look at them. They never did anything for anybody.
To be precious in God’s eyes we don’t have to do anything special. We just are.
And to be a saint, we don’t have to be anything grand or complicated. We just need to witness to him.
What the Innocents did do was simple: They lived in Christ’s time and died in Christ’s place.
We are all in exactly the same position. We live in the time of the Church, after Jesus came and before he returns. The very way the calendar names our calendar years — A.D.; Anno Domini; “the Year of Our Lord” — indicates that we live and die in Jesus’ time.
We who have been baptized have been incorporated into Christ’s life and death. As long as we do nothing to jeopardize that grace, we only gain from death, like they did. We too can “Follow the Lamb and sing forever.”
In fact, most of us were embraced by God exactly like the Holy Innocents were.
Most of us were baptized in our infancy. That means that God found us worthy to be his special disciples before we made any mark on the world, and before we did anything but cry.
We were exactly like the Holy Innocents — and we were also in the position of God himself, the newborn baby in the manger.
You could even argue that to this day, the more like the Holy Innocents we are, the closer to God we are.
“God is truly and absolutely simple,” said St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas argued at length that he was right.
God is uncomplicated. He simply lives and loves.
The real lesson of the Holy Innocents isn’t that we can never do enough to be worthy of God, it’s that we probably have to do a lot less to be more like him.
The more we do that is contrary to God’s will, the more complicated our lives become. The less we stray from his simple path, the more holy our life will become.
Pray today for the holy innocence of the Holy Innocents. Forever.
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