Herod didn’t want the newborn King of the Jews to live beyond infancy, at least not as long as Herod was in power. His solution was to immediately destroy anyone who poses a threat to his power, pleasure, wealth, ease or comfort.
It’s amazing to think to what extent Herod would go to assure his undiminished power. He would slaughter all the male infants below two years of age in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a small town. Scholars determined that there may have been as many as forty male infants in the city which were under the age of two. Our imaginations refuse to dwell on the suffering, the ruthless pain that these children must have experienced at the moment of their deaths and the crushing pain that devastated the hearts of their parents.
Yet each age in history has its own Herod, individuals who would not stop at any extreme to safeguard their own personal kingdoms. If one cannot vanquish Christ and Christian values in a free and open intellectual or spiritual confrontation, then they would use any means available to attain their end no matter how immoral it may be. Amoral tyrants substitute their own good for the common good. The life of their country centers about their own personal needs.
In our own country during the last thirty years of the twentieth century, the roster of Christian martyrs grew quite long. Catholic priests and religious, Protestant pastors, laity of different Christian churches lost their lives, were deprived of their liberty and had to flee into exile. These people suffered because they refuse to give up their Christian values.
Today, even if martyrdom is not a threat to Christians, there are values Christians must live by, but living out these values can be painful. These values include integrity, honesty, incorruptibility, concern for others and service to others. These values can put heavy demands on Christians.
When we think of the Holy Innocents, while we wonder at the lives of our modern martyrs and at their painful sacrifices accepted by these heroic victims, we should reflect at our own lifestyles and at the Christian values by which we should be living.
“Lord, you gave your life for my sake, to redeem me from slavery to sin and death. Help me to carry my cross with joy that I may willingly do your will and not shrink back out of fear or cowardice when trouble besets me.”