HOLY INNOCENTS- HOMILY: 1 Jn 1; 5- 2: 2; Mt 2: 13-18


RACHEL MOURNS HER CHILDREN AND WILL NOT BE CONSOLED BECAUSE THEY ARE NO MORE. Death is so absolute and definitive seen from the perspective of this world that nothing in this mortal life can adequately make up for it. For one who truly loves there is no compensatory replacement for the presence of the lost loved one within the confines of time and space. We cannot fully realize just how much some intimate means to us until that beloved departs from us definitively by death. No matter how far away, under what circumstances we are separated from such a love, yet so long as that person is alive there is some hope we shall be again united. This hope disappears when it is death that effects the separation.

Whether it is a parent, a child, a brother, a sister, a wife, a husband or a bosom friend who dies, no matter: never again can we see that visage, hear that voice, share our experiences and thoughts, or even look forward to doing so within the confines of life as we know it on earth. However much we desire one more such exchange, one more sight of that beloved figure, one more time to hear the warm sound of that voice which we remember as so reassuring and affectionate, all such experience is forever precluded. This truth was brought home to me on one occasion many decades ago now in the case of a near relative whose young husband, a close friend of mine, had been killed and lost at sea some months before, so that she never saw his dead body. Suddenly as we walked along a busy street she saw the figure of a man at some distance, and spontaneously cried out "There is Tom" , then, abruptly subdued, sank into herself in the disappointed realization that it could not be he; she could never find him again, though her spirit keep looking for him everywhere.

Flight into Egypt

When Jesus was still an infant, just beginning to speak, death entered into his life, however vaguely he was conscious of it. The fear and anxiety it caused his mother and father was surely transmitted wordlessly to him in their whole manner as they hastily departed as refugees for a strange country. The experience of having her son tracked down by soldiers under orders to kill him along with all male children his age was surely an occasion when Mary was confronted with the terrible absoluteness of death and became aware of its impact. The fuller dimensions of the ties uniting, in the intimate depths of the soul, the mother with her child, normally remain unconscious, having roots deeper than thought and imagination. But from the moment she learned of the danger, all that he meant to her assumed a new form and emerged into her awareness with a force and clarity she had not experienced earlier. Her life would never be the same after so traumatic a shock to her maternal soul. This was, in God's plan, a preparation for the still greater trauma of the crucifixion and death of her son at a future date.

The mystery of death is always a challenge to our human nature and especially to all that is highest

and noblest in the heart of the person. When death comes violently to the young and the innocent the challenge this mystery poses to our reason and our hope is intensified. For some it is a scandal, that is to say, an obstacle to belief in the existence of God, especially to a God of love. This leaves such persons with nothing but the poor and shabby philosophy of despair under one of the many forms it has taken. But our Catholic faith supplies with a meaningful attitude based on trust and belief in the goodness, power and wisdom of a God who is a Father, full of love. At the same time He is transcendently holy, and so can be known and loved only by those who resemble Him sufficiently to share in His inalienable attributes. Ultimately, however, no reasoning can convince the human mind concerning these truths which take on their stark consistency in all its fullness in the confrontation with the reality of death.

The feast of the Holy Innocents confronts us with this mystery today. It does so in the context of the Eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus, the beloved Son of the heavenly Father, the innocent one, given over by the will of the same Father to suffering and death on the cross to restore us to His favor. If this does not make us capable of trusting in the Father's love for us, nothing will and death has the last say. But this very Eucharist we offer today expresses our firm belief that because of the Father's love and the obedient return of love by the Son, it is life that has the final word. The eternal life of the risen Lord Jesus already is shared with us here to strengthen our hope and to shore up our trust, that even in the face of death, violent and unjust though it be, our life is full of meaning and its meaning is love.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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