After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you for Herod will soon be looking for the child in order to kill him.”
Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled: I called my son out of Egypt.
When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old or under. This was done in line with what he had learned from the wise men about the time when the star appeared.
In this, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled: A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation: Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.
The Church celebrates the memory of the young male children in Bethlehem and its neighborhood aged two or under whom Herod ordered killed in his attempt to kill the young child whom the wise men from the east had come to recognize and adore. The Church celebrates them as among the very first martyrs for the Lord.
They have been followed by a great host of martyrs for their Christian faith and love of Christ and defense of Christian values, many formally canonized as saints and blessed. Surely many more, though not declared as saints or blessed, have given their lives in defense of the faith and of Christian values.
The two Filipinos canonized as saints, Sts. Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila (d 1630) and Pedro Calungsod (1654 – 1672) were martyrs for the faith, one martyred in Japan and the other in Guam.
As Jesus said at the Beatitudes, “Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. This is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.” (Mt 5: 11 -12)
We pray the Opening Prayer at Mass for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, “O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in you which we confess with our lips may also speak through our manner of life.”