Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

Lectionary: 698



This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.


Reflecting on the ancient feast of the Holy Innocents, the Church turns to the Evangelist Saint John (whose feast was yesterday.) The Fourth Gospel begins with metaphors of sound and light; with a teaching about the word that was from the beginning and the light that shines in darkness, a light which the darkness cannot overcome.

Even a cavernous darkness can be reduced by a single candle; it seems to cower away from the light, hiding behind the slightest obstacle.

Herod’s slaughter of the Innocents is surely an impenetrable darkness. Could anything make it right? Could the mothers and fathers and families of these children be comforted by any gracious act of God?

Certainly, justification for this killing is beyond our imagination. This darkness mocks any logic, argument or rationale devised by human cleverness.

Veterans sometimes tell me stories like this. I hear them and can say nothing. I can acknowledge their moral injury. The intuition of what is right and just and beautiful has been deeply injured by incidents which should not happen in God’s world. Regardless of whether he saw it, heard of it, or committed it, the Veteran was also a victim of this atrocity. He or she has suffered a grievous wound which has not been healed by time. I pray that my recognition of the Veteran’s guilt, shame and suffering might help.

Saint John insists in God there is no darkness; nor is there a commingling of dark and light. There are no shades of grey in the light of Christ. It has vanquished even the shadows that lurk behind shame, guilt, remorse and regret.

I see that too in the VA. Some Veterans come home to marry, have children, find work, attend church and enjoy the consolations of peace and prosperity. They do no forget the war or its savage barbarity. They remember the innocents who perished. But they allow life to go on and grace to heal them.

Some Vietnam Veterans have returned to the peninsula to discover the ravages of war were covered over by the vitality of earth. Jungles, marshes, villages and rice paddies recovered; survivors created new families whose grandchildren remember nothing of the American occupation.

These Veterans have allowed God’s Wisdom to shine where their rationalizations, interpretations and explanations failed. They have accepted the forgiveness they could not give themselves. They see no better than anyone else how their tragic stories can have a happy ending, but they walk in the light of faith which promised the Holy Innocents an unending Kingdom of Light.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.