On the Feast of the Holy Innocents, I most certainly grieve for the children who Herod so heartlessly commanded to be murdered. December 28 in the Christian churches of the West and December 29 in those of the East commemorates the day Herod had ordered the execution of all male children age two and under in Bethlehem. He was looking to annihilate the Newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been revealed to him by the Magi. Power-monger that he was, Herod didn’t want anyone infringing on his sovereignty. Rather than trying to discover the identity of the King, he simply had all of the little boys massacred by his henchmen.I grieve for those little ones and feel deep compassion for their families, especially their mothers. Can you just imagine? The child you bore, nurtured, and tended dragged from your arms and put to the sword right before you eyes. There are no proper words for that kind of grief.
But on this day, my heart also goes out to the Magi. Why? Because they unwittingly became the instruments of Herod’s wrath. They were duped! Herod had them believing that he sincerely wanted to pay homage to the King of the Jews and so they freely shared information with him. They set out to find and pay their own homage to the King, promising Herod that they’d return and disclose the King’s location to him on their return journey. They didn’t realize that Herod was using them to further his evil plan to destroy the King of the Jews.
True, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod and so they took another route home, leaving Herod in the lurch. Consequently, the King of the Jews was saved, but many other children lost their lives at Herod’s bidding.
This hits home for me because there have been times when I’ve been in the Magi’s place – unwittingly being the instrument of someone else’s wrath. I’ve been caught in lies and gossip by someone’s attempt to turn me against another person they didn’t like. I’ve witnessed injustice and was convinced to keep my mouth shut and look the other way. I’ve been cornered into taking sides on an issue to prove someone else’s point. I’ve been caught in the snares of a manipulator without even realizing I was being manipulated. I’ve shared information I knew I shouldn’t share, and it caused harm to someone else.
Like the Magi, I have indeed been the instrument of someone else’s wrath. I’ll bet you have, too, if you honestly think about it.
The worst part is the damage done and the process of seeing and acknowledging that we were duped. Most likely, those harmed were not at fault. Or, at least they didn’t deserve the treatment they received. Sadly, there rarely is a dream to urge us to take another route.
I often wonder what went through the minds of the Magi once they’d realized Herod’s real motives. What did they say to each other? How did they feel?
I also wonder what went through their minds and hearts when they learned of the slaughter of the Innocents. Surely, they must have heard about it – news of such a horror must have traveled fast! Perhaps they felt guilty that they’d believed Herod in the first place. Perhaps they gave thanks for the dream and were relieved that they hadn’t told Herod where the King was. Perhaps the Wise Men got even wiser that day.
That’s my prayer for myself today, and for anyone who unwittingly becomes the instrument of someone else’s wrath. May we all get even wiser on this day.
Image: The Magi, Henry Siddons Mowbray: Wikimedia Commons