[The following is a homily I gave on the Sunday after Christmas in 2004, which happened then to be the day after Christmas, on which we celebrate a feast of Our Lady.]
The Gospel has also taken an abrupt turn since yesterday. Yesterday, we had angels singing the glory of God and shepherds praising and glorifying the young Child, and magi seeing a star, finding Jesus and falling down to worship Him and rejoicing exceedingly.
Today, we have a mass murder, and the only one who escaped it had to flee for his life suddenly. It’s very striking to see how one day the angels are saying: glory to God in the highest, and the next they’re saying: get up, get out of here, someone’s trying to kill you!
But this is what Jesus has entered into by becoming man. Good thing He’s omniscient, so He wasn’t surprised that such a thing would happen to Him when He came to earth, but He willed to take that risk. He knew what was going to happen to Him. He knew that He wouldn’t even be able to be a little bouncing baby—not for very long, anyway—before He would become a refugee and a fugitive and begin his suffering already. Even as a tiny baby, the Cross loomed large on the horizon of his little life. But He came for that. He came to show us how to live this tragic, difficult life.
Now there are a couple of interesting points about this particular passage which I discovered in the footnotes of my Bible—about how the life of Christ in the beginning, and also the holy innocents, had their prefigurations in the Old Testament. In the beginning, the chosen people of God had to leave their homeland because of a famine and go down into Egypt. They all went to Egypt, and now Jesus has to go into Egypt. God called them back out of Egypt when it was time to return to their homeland. It even mentions the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” The angel of the Lord called Jesus, God’s Son, back out of Egypt when the time was right, when Herod had died, although they didn’t go back to their hometown, because Herod’s son Archelaus was in charge, and he was just as wicked and cruel as his father.
The other thing is that the slaughter of the innocents was also prefigured by Pharaoh. Herod had his predecessor in Pharaoh, who tried to kill all the male children in Israel when they were multiplying too much, and he was afraid that they would take over his country.
Then the passage from Jeremiah about Rachel weeping: that was prophesied by Jeremiah when the exiles from Jerusalem were on their way to Babylon. They had sinned against God and they were punished for their sins by being exiled to Babylon. On the way to Babylon they had to pass Ramah, which is the place that Rachel died and was buried. So he says that as these exiles passed through Ramah, weeping and lamentation was heard. It was Rachel turning in her grave, Rachel weeping over her children—the people of Israel who had sinned against the Lord and were now being punished. Matthew uses this in the Gospel to say that now Rachel is weeping, not because the children of Israel are going into Babylon, but because they’re being destroyed by a wicked king. We need to look at what this means in our own lives.
Of course, we know today that the murder of innocents goes on unabated, because the Herods in the Supreme Court and in the Congress have approved and legalized the slaughter and let their henchmen in the abortion clinics do the bloody dirty work. That’s something that should never have been allowed to happen, but now that it has, it should not be allowed to continue. But it still goes on and these innocents are killed daily. Just in this country, 4000 every single day. That’s really a sin that cries to Heaven for vengeance.
Now that in itself is bad enough, and it’s about as bad as it gets, but there’s something else that we need to be aware of. It’s another slaughter: the slaughter of innocence. That happens to the young people in this world, done mostly by the mass media, the entertainment industry, the pornography industry, and the drug trade. That is a pernicious slaughter of human innocence. At least the innocent babies that are killed, they go to God and they’re safe, but the innocent youth that become corrupted by all these means in our society, they stand to lose much more. They stand to lose their immortal souls.
Those that are responsible for this really have Hell to pay, literally. But in the meantime the price is high in human souls. That’s something that we really have to pray about and give a good example in our own life, and to be diligent with those for whom we have a responsibility, and to be courageous enough to stand against the prevailing spirit of the age that allows this to happen.
Little kids, ten or eleven years old, maybe younger, already know about sex and drugs, and maybe they’ve already experimented with these things; it’s a tragedy. They listen to music, in which the lyrics encourage them to promiscuity or violence or blasphemy, and they just drink it up and they think this is how life is supposed to be. Well, that’s wrong. Their innocence is being destroyed, and that grieves and angers the Heart of God, who created everyone in purity and beauty, with an eternal destiny of goodness and happiness in Heaven, and they’re being destroyed by these evils in our society.
You know, we can’t just sit there our whole lives in Bethlehem, “round yon Virgin Mother and Child,” just enjoying the sweetness of the experience of that gentle and precious moment. We should receive the grace of that and meditate on it a lot, but the day is also going to come, and is here now, when the angel of the Lord is going to say: get up, do something! The message to St. Joseph was: get up and take the Child into Egypt; protect Him because someone is trying to kill Him. This message is for you too: Protect your children, because someone is trying to kill them. You have to hear that word. And you have to be ready to get up and do whatever the angel of the Lord tells you.
Our life is something that is precious in the sight of God, and because it’s precious we have a mission, a calling from God, and we have to be faithful to Him—if we are going to fulfill his will in our lives and if we are not going to let the things continue that are happening in the world.
If we’ve lost our own innocence we have to work to recover it. We can’t even do it at all, by ourselves. God’s grace can do that, can cleanse us and heal us and enlighten us and strengthen us and enable us to live according to his will and his word, but we have to work at it, we have to cooperate. We have to give our whole selves.
What if Mary and Joseph had said, “Well, how bad can it be?” And what if they just said, “Things will be all right. This is God’s Son after all, why should we pick up and leave? We’ve just moved here into a nice little house, and we don’t want to leave”—but no, we can’t rationalize like that. We can’t be blind to the real evils in the world. We can’t be blind or deaf to the call of God to do something about it.
So let us be open to God and listen well to the angel of the Lord, who will speak to our hearts and guide us in the ways of truth and righteousness, and the ways that we need to witness to the world about the truth, so that this slaughter of innocence will stop, and that souls may not be lost anymore because of it. It’s a serious thing to the Heart of God, who has to see his beloved ones go the way that they’re going.
Let us now receive God. Receive his love; receive his grace in the Holy Eucharist. Despite all of the difficulties and troubles and trials in the world, the message of Christmas is that Christ is Emmanuel—God with us—and through the Holy Eucharist, Christ is God within us. He is here to love us, to save us and to bless us as long as we follow Him. We will thus reap the rewards of eternal life.