December 28, 2018. Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents and I reflect on the baby boys who were cruelly murdered by the paranoid King Herod.
And as I read today’s Gospel, I see how Joseph’s obedience to the message from an angel saved the infant Jesus from being killed. Despite all the difficulties, Joseph protected the Holy Family by fleeing to Egypt.
As I reflect on the events, I see a paradox. I recall how God – through Moses – delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, most especially with the dramatic Red Sea phenomenon how the waters divided in order for the Israelites to cross and how the Egyptian soldiers were swallowed by the sea.
The paradox I see: Joseph bringing back the Holy Family to Egypt. The angel’s message he received in his dream was to rise, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt and stay there for an indefinite period of time. And Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
If I were Joseph, it could have been unthinkable for me to receive the angel’s message with the instructions to flee to Egypt, a place associated with slavery.
But all I can see in Joseph was his complete obedience to God from the time he accepted Mary to be his wife despite her being already pregnant. I recall how he wanted to leave Mary but changed his mind when he receivedthe message of the angel in his dream. I can only surmise this: Joseph trusts that to be with God is the greatest freedom, no matter where he goes.
God calls us out of the personal “Egypt” we tend to create for ourselves. And in order to follow Him into freedom, we must be completely honest with ourselves and with God. But as we pursue our path leading us to our spiritual freedom, we meet “Herod” along the way. Herod is an awful person. Yet there is something awful in us when we choose to do things we are not supposed to be doing — actions and behavior that make our life miserable and eventually become the source of our self-inflicted pains. Herod killed the innocents. And we kill our own innocence, as well as the innocence of others, by our pride, selfishness, envy, and sins of the flesh. Like Herod., we sometimes act as if we are “great”; we make ourselves kings and behave like little arrogant and rude gods.
But we only need to be like Joseph — how he obeys and trusts God — in order that we can “get out of our own created Egypt” and hear and respond to God’s call to spiritual freedom.