Sin, Fear, and Deception
Tuesday December 28, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of the Holy Innocents
Reading (1 John 1:5-2:2) Gospel (St. Matthew 2:13-18)
Today as we celebrate this feast of the Holy Innocents, we certainly commemorate one of the most heinous events in human history, the fact that someone, because of his own insecurity as well as his own arrogance, would command the destruction of innocent human life. He was afraid that a little baby was going to take his throne, therefore, he wanted to get rid of this Child and was willing to destroy all the children just to make sure that the one Child he was after would certainly be among them.
In our own time, we have seen far worse things. We can look at what Stalin did to over 20 million people. We can look at what Hitler did to nearly 10 million people. We can look at what goes on every single day as 4,000 babies in this country are destroyed daily because people do not want them, and how many others throughout the world, as millions upon millions of babies are destroyed over and over again each year because of the selfishness of our society. So we see that human nature does not change. We have the same kind of pride, we have the same kind of selfishness, we have the same insecurities as Herod himself did. Therefore, we rush around trying to get rid of our “problem”, as we would say, trying to make it like it is not real, and thinking that if somehow we can do this that that will solve the difficulty. Of course, all it does is cause more problems.
As we heard in the first reading, as well as in the Gospel, there is an awful lot of deception. Herod realized that he was deceived by the Magi. The Magi realized that they were deceived by Herod. Saint John talks about how if we claim we are without sin that we deceive ourselves. There is an awful lot of deception that goes on, and that is exactly what Satan does to us. In our fear, in our confusion, in our selfishness, he causes a huge amount of deception. We listen to his lies and we do some of the most unfortunate things. All of us, if we look over the course of our lives, would have to admit that we have fallen into his deception many, many, many times.
But in the midst of all of this, there is great hope. God, Who brings good out of evil, certainly brought about a great good through the slaughter of the innocents two thousand years ago, and He is going to bring about a great good out of the slaughter of the innocents in our day, as well as throughout the centuries. The innocent blood that has been shed is a powerful witness before the throne of God, and it is all going to be addressed, it is all going to be made up for. But we have, as Saint John tells us, an intercessor who is just, one who is before the throne of God, another Holy Innocent who was spared at the time of Bethlehem only to be slaughtered 33 years later to unite His blood with the blood of all those innocent people which had been shed so that innocent people throughout the generations would be able to unite their blood with His.
In a way which seems to be exactly the opposite of what one would think, it is in this way that sin is forgiven. It is a strange thing that in order for sin to be forgiven we would commit the worst possible sin, that we would put God to death, that we would destroy innocent life. Yet it is through this means that God has chosen to bring innocence back to the guilty, to forgive the sinner. It is a mystery that we do not fully understand. Yet this is the way God has chosen to work.
So each one of us, as we look at our own sinfulness, needs to look at the Cross. We need to look at what the cost of our sins truly is. And rather than despairing in the face of our sins – no matter what they are, no matter how horrible they are, it does not matter – we have only one place where we can go to be forgiven, and that is to come before the Lord with all of our guilt, with all of our sinfulness. We need to come to the One Who is perfectly innocent. We need to beg Him for His mercy, for His forgiveness, for the innocent blood that He shed for us so that our sins could be forgiven. It is the only way. It would seem to make no sense. But for anyone who recognizes their own sinfulness, it makes perfect sense. The guilty can only be forgiven by the innocent. We can only be forgiven by the One Who prayed on the Cross because we knew not what we were doing.
In all of our sinfulness and in all of our foolishness, we have on the Cross, we have in the Blessed Sacrament, we have in the confessional, and we have before the throne of God the Father an intercessor who is just, One Who united His innocent blood with all the blood of the innocents that would be shed, One Who was willing to take on the guilt of those of us who are not innocent so that our sins would be forgiven and He Himself would become the expiation for our sins.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.