Monday, December 27, 2010

Gospel for Dec 28, Feast: The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

From: Matthew 2:13-18

The Flight Into Egypt
[13] Now when they (the Magi) had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the Child, to destroy Him." [14] And he rose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed to Egypt, [15]and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called My Son."

The Massacre of the Innocents
[16] Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. [17] Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: [18] "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."

14. St. John Chrysostom, commenting on this passage, draws a particular attention to Joseph's faithfulness and obedience: "On hearing this, Joseph was not scandalized, nor did he say, `This is hard to understand. You yourself told me not long ago that He would save His people, and not He is not able to save even Himself. Indeed, we have to flee and undertake a journey and be away for a long time...'. But he does not say any of these things, because Joseph is a faithful man. Neither does he ask when they will be coming back, even though the angel had left it open when he said `and remain there till I tell you.' This does not hold him back: on the contrary, he obeys, believes and endures all trials with joy" ("Hom. on St. Matthew", 8).

It is worth noting also how God's way of dealing with His chosen ones contains light and shade: they have to put up with intense sufferings side by side with great joy: "It can be clearly seen that God, who is full of love for man, mixes pleasant things with unpleasant ones, as He did with all the Saints. He gives us neither dangers nor consolations in a continual way, but rather He makes the lives of the just a mixture of both. This was what He did with Joseph" ("ibid".).

15. The text of Hosea 11:1 speaks of a child who comes out of Egypt and is a son of God. This refers in the first place to the people of Israel whom God brought out of Egypt under Moses' leadership. But this event was a symbol or prefiguration of Jesus, the Head of the Church, the New People of God. It is in Him that this prophecy is principally fulfilled. The sacred text gives a quotation from the Old Testament in the light of its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The Old Testament achieves its full meaning in Christ, and, in the words of St. Paul, to read it without keeping in mind Jesus is to have one's face covered by a veil (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18).

18. Ramah was the city in which Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, concentrated the Israelites he had taken prisoner. Since Ramah was in the land of Benjamin, Jeremiah puts this lament for the children of Israel in the mouth of Rachel, the mother of Benjamin and Joseph. So great was the misfortune of those exiled to Babylon that Jeremiah says poetically that Rachel's sorrow is too great to allow for consolation.

"Rachel was buried in the racecourse near Bethlehem. Since her grave was nearby and the property belonged to her son, Benjamin (Rachel was of the tribe of Benjamin), the children beheaded in Bethlehem could reasonably be called Rachel's children" (St John Chrysostom, "Hom. on St Matthew", 9).

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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