Neither the mothers’ tears nor the fathers’ grief,
nor the cries of the children themselves touch you, O Herod.
Fear kills you and you kill them.
The Chapel of the Divine Child in Bethlehem University has a series of beautiful frescoes, remembering the Holy Innocents and other child martyrs. When I visited the US Christian Brother told me that the artist who painted the frescoes in 1957 and 1958 was inspired by the faces of Palestinian children in Bethlehem.
As I contemplate the faces I think of the many Palestinian children who have been killed, especially those in Gaza.
It is not that I want to forget the Israeli children killed nor the children killed by ISIS and Al-Queda or by US or Russian bombs. Nor can I forget the children killed in massacres in Ruanda or El Salvador and Guatemala.
But let us pray today for all the innocent children killed.
I believe that many are killed today for the same reasons that moved Herod to kill the innocents in Bethlehem centuries ago: fear.
A hymn from Benedictine Daily Prayer well expresses this:
The tyrant Herod, filled with dread and fear,
When told that Christ the Infant King was near,
Was wild with rage and gave command to slay
All infants under two without delay.
Fear kills us, blinding us to the images of the suffering, rending us deaf to the cries of the victims, hardening our hearts so that we cannot recognize the others as our sisters and brothers.
Thomas Merton once wrote that the root of war is fear – a marvelous essay in New Seeds of Contemplation. Fear is not only the root o war but of the massacre of innocents who threaten the powers of this world.
fRemembering today the feast of the Holy Innocents, let us pray that God will remove the fear in the hearts of so many and move all of us to become advocates of the victims.
This for me is the message of the feast of the Holy Innocents.