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He ordered the massacre


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Gospel: Mt 2:13-18

WHEN the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.

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. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Ramah, sob­bing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.

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Herod was a bloody despot who ordered the killing of his own sons at a mere suspicion of wanting his throne. The emperor Caesar Augustus remarked that it was better to be Herod’s pigs than his sons.

The massacre of the male children in Bethlehem is in conso­nance with his evil character. Mat­thew connects this sad incident to the two major tragedies in Israel’s history: Pharaoh’s slaughter of the male infants of the Hebrews in Egypt and the exile of the tribes to Assyria and Babylon. Bethlehem, where Herod’s massacre takes place, is also the place where Rachel symbolically wept over her children, even in her tomb (cf Jer 31:15).

The children of Israel suffer persecution once more in the person of Jesus and the infants. But just as God broke the power of the tyrants who persecuted Israel in Egypt and in exile, so will he frustrate the plans of the tyrant Herod. And Jesus, who comes to save God’s people, relives God’s acts of salvation.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.