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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 12:13–23]

HEROD awaited with anxiety the return of the Magi. At last, perceiving that he waited in vain, he became furious, and gave orders that all the male children of two years old and under, in Bethlehem and in all the confines thereof, should be slain. He thought that, in this way, the Child Jesus would certainly perish.

But the angel of the Lord appeared at the same time by night to Joseph, and said: “Arise, and take the Child and His Mother, and fly into Egypt and be there until I shall tell thee; for Herod seeks the Child, to destroy Him.” Then Joseph arose, took the Child and His Mother by night, and retired into Egypt.

Hardly had the Holy Family departed from Bethlehem, when the men of blood whom Herod had chosen to execute his cruel order, suddenly rushed into the city, dragged the infants from the arms of their mothers, and massacred them all. Then was heard throughout the city of David the piteous cry of the bereaved mothers, mourning and bewailing the innocent babes that were so cruelly put to death by the tyrant.

The punishment of this dreadful crime was not long delayed. A few years after the bloody deed, Herod was stricken with a most loathsome disease and died in fearful torments. Then the angel of the Lord appeared again unto Joseph in Egypt during his sleep, and said: “Arise, take the Child and His Mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead that sought the life of the Child.”

Joseph, therefore, taking Mary and the Child, went back to the land of Israel, and retired into the parts of Galilee. And He dwelt in Nazareth, that the word of the prophet might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” In the peaceful retirement of that town the Child Jesus grew in wisdom and in grace before God and men. What a heaven on earth was that thrice-hallowed, through humble home in Nazareth!

The Omniscience of God. God knew that in the morning Herod would send soldiers to Bethlehem, to slay the little boys under two years old; therefore He ordered St. Joseph to flee in the middle of the night. The Lord God knew also the moment of Herod’s death, as well as the evil disposition of his son and successor, Archelaus. He therefore warned St. Joseph not to return to Judæa, but to take up his abode at Nazareth in Galilee.

The Justice of God. Herod’s horrible disease and miserable death were evidently a punishment for his cruelty, and especially for his desire to kill the Child Jesus. And as Herod, in spite of his sufferings, persevered to the end in evil and impenitence, the torments of his illness were but a prelude to the eternal torments which awaited him.

The Providence of God. Jesus was not to die before the appointed time; therefore God’s Providence watched over Him and saved Him from the snares of His enemies Herod and Archelaus, making use of His holy angels for that purpose. God’s Providence watches over us also, and, without His leave, not a hair of our head can fall. Moreover, His holy angel keeps guard over us.

The Foster-father of our Lord Jesus. The angel said to St. Joseph: “Take the Child and His Mother.” He did not say: “Take thy Child”, for St. Joseph was not the father, but only the foster-father of our Lord. The angel, moreover, placed the name of the Child before that of the Mother, He being the only-begotten Son of God.

St. Joseph’s high place in the kingdom of God comes from this, that God chose him to be the guardian and protector of His Son, entrusting him with what was greatest and dearest to Himself, singling him out and especially blessing him for this office. The Church celebrates a Feast in honour of St. Joseph on March 19th, and desires that all the faithful should honour him, ask for his intercession, and imitate his virtues. St. Joseph is the especial patron of the Church. Even as he was the protector of the Child Jesus on earth, so, we believe, is he now the protector of the mystical Body of Jesus, His holy Church. We also especially seek his intercession for a good death, because, having died so blessedly, in the presence and with the assistance of Jesus and Mary, he should be supplicated to obtain for us from Jesus the grace of a happy death.

The virtues of St. Joseph corresponded to his high calling. He gives us a splendid example of a firm and living faith, of great confidence in God, resignation, obedience, humility, chastity and industry.

The faith and obedience of Mary and Joseph. Many thoughts might have occurred to them when commanded to flee into Egypt. “If”, they might have said to themselves, “the Child is the Son of God, why is He so helpless? Why should the Son of the Almighty flee before the wicked king? Why did not the angel say how long we were to remain in the pagan country? How can we undertake such a long and dangerous journey without any preparation?” However, they gave no ear to any such thoughts, but obeyed the divine commands precisely and promptly, and started forth, filled with confidence in God and submission to His holy will. They knew very well that God could have taken care of the Child in some other way, if He had so willed it; but as it was His will that the Child should be saved by flight, they consented willingly, although it was very painful to them to leave their own country, the Promised Land, and to expose the Child to so many privations.

Anger is a capital sin. It led Herod to murder a number of innocent children, and to commit a sin crying to heaven for vengeance. He committed as many sins of this description as there were children!

Evil desires. But did Herod actually and grievously sin against the Child Jesus? For after all he did not really kill Him! No, but he had the will to do so, and in this way sinned against Him.

The Holy Innocents gave their lives for Jesus, because Herod put them to death, thinking to reach Jesus through them. They were, so to speak, cleansed from original sin by the Baptism of blood, and taken by Jesus to heaven, seeing that they lost their lives for His sake. The Church venerates them as martyrs and commemorates them on Dec. 28th.

APPLICATION. Have you never murmured against the decrees of Divine Providence when evil has befallen you? You ought to give yourself over to God in all things, and say: “Thy will be done!”

Think what Jesus suffered for you during His flight into Egypt. It was still winter; the weather was cold, wet and stormy; and often He had no shelter over His head at night. Bear all sufferings patiently for love of Jesus; and, above all things, learn to bear and forbear.








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