Today we celebrate the fourth day of Christmas and the third day of on which red is the liturgical color of the day. Why today? The children known as the holy innocents.
As St. Matthew tells us,
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
It is difficult for us to even imagine the terror and pain suffered by the entire community in and around Bethlehem, as parents watched helplessly as their babies were massacred.
We would like to think that this kind of violence is something that has disappeared into the barbaric past, when in fact it still takes in places around our world where ethnic and tribal identity takes precedence over a sense of our common humanity.
Here in the US people love to go on about "my rights", lately there has been a great deal of talk about the right to free speech. What we seem to forget is that every right carries with it, responsibilities, obligations. While our government should not police speech, if we are to be a civilized society, we have the right and obligation to police ourselves.
From the book of Genesis where God "spoke and it came into being" to the Gospel of John where we told that "In the beginning was the word.." we are reminded of the power of speech. Words lift up and tear down. It is via words that we pass on from one generation to the next either the love of God or hatred. Any parent knows that the simplest slip and suddenly a new word is added to their child's vocabulary, often a word they do not want the child to repeat.
Some of this we can laugh about; other times the results are no laughing matter. In how many of our recent mass killings was the perpetrator incited by words, words in books, words on the internet. Simply because we have a legal right to do something doesn't mean we should either do it ourselves, or tacitly encourage it in others, particularly in public venues.
Today we remember the massacred children in Bethlehem, around the world and right here in the U.S.A. We pray for the holy innocents, but most of all we pray for their parents and other family members who will never in this life cease to grieve.