Daily Reflection
December 28th, 2004
Luis Rodriguez, S.J.
Chaplain, Creighton University Medical Center
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The feast of the Holy Innocents presents us with something of a quandary. Ordinarily the celebration of a Saint or group of Saints is meant both as a way of honoring their memory and as an incentive for us to imitate their example. We can certainly honor the memory of the Holy Innocents, but what is there for us to imitate? We honor a group that was not yet capable of taking a stance before God and indeed not yet capable of accepting or refusing the sacrifice of their lives. With all the respect due to the commemoration, it is difficult for me to propose a lesson we could learn from the Holy Innocents themselves.

But we can learn a lesson from Herod, the one who dictated an order that, according to one tradition, applied even to his own youngest son. Regardless of the accuracy of such details, historical sources do present Herod as a cruel ruler, ambitious to the point of paranoid jealousy when it came to potential rivals. He had obviously acquired wealth and power and, in the Ignatian paradigm of Satan’s banner or program, he had come to absolutize himself. It is in this that we can find a lesson for ourselves. We may not have his wealth or power, but I am afraid we have the agility to jump straight to the self-absolutizing stage and, once there, we can easily be tempted to sacrifice others to our own advancement. We can and at times do hurt people (“Innocents”?) in order for ourselves to look better and to improve our position or status. Being aware of this real risk, we can profit from considering once more with Ignatius of Loyola the Lord’s banner or program diametrically opposite to that of Satan, one that leads us through poverty/simplicity to not seeking being honored and to acknowledging humbly before God our position as creatures.

We can also learn an admittedly indirect lesson from the fact that some, who were incapable of either a faith stance or a moral stance, are honored by the Church. In doing so, the Church shows a fitting respect for lives that from a faith/moral point of view are incompletely developed not through their own fault or negligence.  In my hospital ministry I encounter at times patients, who do not appear to be capable of adopting any defined religious stance beyond some “generic” religious feeling. They have grown up in an environment that has definitely not helped —at times it has even stifled— any mature development of their stance before God. And yet in their religious “underdevelopment” they are good honest folks with a remarkably simple grasp of faith, even if occasionally with a clearly outlandish reading of Scripture. To me in their absence of malice and in their incompletely developed faith they are “Innocents” and I will leave up to God to judge how “Holy” they are as Innocents. I feel humbled by their trusting openness to the God they want to love. I want to respect their faith lives and, moved by the Church’s honoring of those “underdeveloped” Innocents, I want to honor them today as “Innocents,” as childlike people whose faith lives are not always respected by those of us who may consider ourselves religiously developed.

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