When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old or under. This was done, according to what he had learned from the wise men about the time when the star appeared.
In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled: A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation: Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.
We are remembering today a group of babies killed by King Herod the Great shortly after the birth of Jesus in the circumstances described in today’s gospel reading.
This massacre of babies is not recorded by any pagan author, but knowing what kind of man Herod was, we are not surprised by it. For Herod killed his wife Mariamme, her two sons, her mother and grandfather. He also killed his first-born son, Antipater. He strangled with his own hands his brother-in-law Aristobulus, and had his own sons Aristobulus and Alexander, murdered on his orders. On one occasion he had 40 young men burned alive as living torches. And so, dispatching 20 or 25 babies (the estimated number of victims according to experts in demography) was for Herod totally in character.
In our times, too, children suffer many forms of violence. Millions are murdered in their mother’s womb and with their mother’s consent. Millions are victims of war, starved, abused by pornographers, forced to live on the streets. Yes indeed, children still have plenty of Herods to fear.
Let us work together and find ways and means to protect today’s children from violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect.