Let there be peace on earth and mercy mild


When Jesus was born, the angelic choirs sang about peace on earth, but it wasn’t long before Herod, fearing the loss of his kingdom, ordered the slaughter of all male infants up to the age of two years to be found in his kingdom. The life of an innocent child is of no consequence it would seem. And here we are more than two thousand years later, and we, given by God the task of caring for our common home, still engage in the slaughter of innocent and defenseless people. 

Pope Francis appealed for an end to war and the indiscriminate killing of innocent people in his Christmas Day address. “How, many innocents are being slaughtered in our world! In their mothers’ wombs, in odysseys undertaken in desperation and in search of hope, in the lives of all those little ones whose childhood has been devastated by war. They are the little Jesuses of today,” he said. Three days after Christmas, on December 28, Catholics around the world celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. This Gospel Enquiry focuses on the story of the threat to the life of Jesus just days after his birth.


After the wise men left, an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.”

So Joseph got up and left for Egypt during the night with the child and his mother. And Joseph stayed in Egypt until Herod died. This happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: “I called my son out of Egypt.”

When Herod saw that the wise men had tricked him, he was furious. So he gave an order to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem and in the surrounding area who were two years old or younger. This was in keeping with the time he learned from the wise men. So what God had said through the prophet Jeremiah came true:

“A voice was heard in Ramah
    of painful crying and deep sadness:
Rachel crying for her children.
    She refused to be comforted,
    because her children are dead.”

(Matthew 2:13-19 – New Century Version)

The Enquiry 


  • What happens in this Gospel story? Which universal characteristics of the human condition can be found in the story? Where and when in the world has the human condition been experienced in this way? What has been your response to those events?

  • What is there about this story that tells you that it is more than about the instinct to survive?   

  • What are the social, psychological and spiritual consequences of Herod’s bid to consolidate his hold on power in his kingdom


  • What do you think about this event recounted in Matthew’s Gospel? 

  • What does your faith tell you about the abuse of power and the disregard for human life illustrated in this story and in events happening in the world at present? 

  • Ideally, what should have happened when Herod ordered the slaughter of the innocents?


  • As you think about the world in which you live, what do you want to change so that people can live in peace and be safe and happy? 

  • What small action can you take that will contribute to bringing about that change?

  • Who can you involve in your action and how and when will you get them to participate in your action?

Author: Pat Branson 

Image source: https://www.faith-theology.com/2017/12/massacre-of-innocents-christmas-letter.html






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