Monday, December 28, 2015

Innocence and Innocents

In the second chapter of St. Matthew's gospel we hear how

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.

Today we commemorate those children whom we believe are part of the company of saints in heaven.
Were they baptized with water? No.
Are they considered Christians. Yes.
Not only are they considered Christians but martyrs.
Doesn't a person have to choose to be a martyr, you may ask.
Here is where some of my protestant brothers and sisters confuse me. On the one hand they will claim that "sola gratis" grace alone saves one without works. On the other hand they will argue that infants should not be baptized because the person must profess Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  Which is it? For us it is God's grace and as the Catechism says, "The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism."( CCC 1250) The infant can do absolutely nothing and yet God's grace can work in them.

Here we must also make sure we do not confuse the stain of original sin and personal sin.  Before the age of reason (presumably 7 years old) we consider a person to be an infant, incapable of personal sin and in particular moral sin. Do they have the  "inclination towards evil and death" which we call original sin? Yes. And even in toddlers we see this tendency toward selfishness, but it is not that personal sin, by which we separate ourselves from God.

In that sense all children from the moment they are conceived until they reach the use of reason are considered innocents.  And should they die even without baptism, we trust that through God's grace and mercy they will be received into the company of the saints.  One need only look at our funeral rites to see our theology.

At the funeral of an unbaptized child the priest says:
All things are of your making, all creation awaits they day of salvation. We now must entrust the soul of this child  to the abundant mercy of God that our beloved child may find a home in his kingdom. 

Notice that we call him or her "our child." The child belongs only to the parents but to the Church.

Today is not only the day we remember the Holy Innocents from two millennia ago, but today we remember all the families who mourn. We pause and remember all of the innocents who have died in this year through abortion, miscarriage, or the myriad other ways that parents suffer the loss of a child.  As painful as that lose is, we live in the hope that we will one day be reunited with each and every one of  these holy innocents in the company of the saints, in the fulness of the Kingdom of God.