Herod the Great, the King of the Jews – was neither a king nor a Jew. His mother was an Arab, the daughter of a sheik, and his father was an Idumean (Edomite) from south of Israel. The name “Herod” isn’t even Jewish, it’s Greek. It’s a name from Greek mythology.
How did Herod, who ruled in Israel from 40 BC – 4 BC, become king then? He had good political instincts – kind of like a weasel or a hyena has instincts. And like many modern-day politicians, Herod sucked up to whoever happened to be in charge in Rome, the master of the world at the time.
Herod spied on his own people. He sent the reports to Rome and was rewarded with money and protection. And in 40 BC, by vote of the Roman Senate, Herod was proclaimed “King of the Jews.” His first official act as King? He climbed the Capitoline Hill in Rome at Caesar’s side and offered sacrifice to the Roman God Jupiter. One God was as good as another for King Herod, the king of the Jews (cf. The Life of Christ by Ricciotti).
Herod had ten wives, one of whom was his niece. He had five of the wives killed, including his favorite wife. He sent two of his sons to Rome for education, and shortly upon their return, he had them killed. This brought on the famous quip from Augustus Caesar who said it was safer to be Herod’s pig, than his child (the Jewish people did not eat pork).
Within two years of Herod’s death, the Wise Men from the east arrived in Jerusalem. When they asked where they could find the newborn King of the Jews, they got a surprise. Instead of joy, their question was met with fear and suspicion. And the paranoid psychopath Herod ended up slaughtering all the baby boys in Bethlehem two years and under.
There is no extra-biblical source that corroborates Matthew’s account of the slaughter of innocent babies in Bethlehem. Most likely because at the time it wasn’t seen as that big of a deal. You see, Herod killed his own sons. It hardly would have shocked people to learn Herod killed other people’s sons too.
What if the Wise Men arrived on the scene today looking for Christ? Would they be met with fear and suspicion? What if the Wise Men watched the nightly news, full of innocent people being murdered – shot down in theaters, highways, and schools? What would be their response to that demonic madness?
Ten years ago, on December 14, 2012, twenty grade school children were shot and killed in their Connecticut school. An emotional President of the United States (then Barak Obama) went on television and said those children “had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
Shortly after the President’s statement, Kansas City, KS Archbishop Naumann noted that there were more than 1000 other American children killed on December 14, 2012. But that didn’t make the news, because it wasn’t seen as that big of a deal.
The key differences between those 1000 deaths and the deaths at the grade school the archbishop noted, were: 1) their killing was authorized by their mothers, who in most instances were pressured or encouraged by their fathers, 2) their murders were performed by professionals who are trained to heal, and 3) their deaths were sanctioned by our United States government.
“Flags,” the archbishop wrote, “will not fly at half-mast for these unborn children. The President will not address the nation about the tragedy of their deaths. Nevertheless, the children who died by this means on Friday, Dec 14, 2012, also ‘had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.’”
I recall seeing on the news, about the same time of that Connecticut grade school shooting, that a 22-year-old Virginia woman had been arrested. She had been charged with killing a couple of her ex-boyfriend’s pigs; two little piglets that she decapitated and threw on her ex-boyfriend’s front porch. The initial charges carried a prison term of fifty years; something about operating a slaughterhouse without a license. It’s interesting: If the woman had chosen to abort her boyfriend’s child she would not have been thrown in jail. You see, in our modern pagan world it’s safer to be the man’s pig than his unborn child.
We are now living, as Archbishop Naumann wrote, “under the cloak of a false rhetoric of choice and personal freedom.” A professor wrote:
“’Choice’ hardly characterizes the human being. People do not choose to be born. Nor do they choose their parents, their time or place of birth, or their genetic inheritance. Nor do they choose their gender or their ethnic background. In addition, parents do not ‘choose’ to have a child. Two people may choose the means that is congenial to the procreation of a child, but they do not choose to have a child or this particular child directly. It is God who is the great chooser” (cf. Donald DeMarco).
My friends, only one person in human history chose to be born, chose His parents, the time and place of His birth, His gender and ethnic background. That was the person the Wise Men came looking for. If we want to be wise, we need to do what the phony King Herod told the Wise Men to do: “Go, and search diligently for the child” (cf. Matthew 2:8).
When they found the child, the Wise Men prostrated themselves. They adored the Christ Child and gave Him gifts: Gold because He was a King, incense because He was God, and myrrh.
That last gift was peculiar. Myrrh was an ointment used to anoint a dead person. Now, who visits new parents and says, “Here’s a little something for your baby boy’s funeral”? But that’s what the Wise Men did. You see, Christ was born to die. Over the wooden crib hung the shadow of the wooden cross.
That shadow is the cause of our joy. You see, we have fallen into sin – but Christ was raised up on the cross. No matter what we have done in the past, what sin we have fallen into, nothing, nothing is beyond the mercy of Christ.
And so, we come to Holy Mass, the Eternal Sacrifice of Calvary, where mercy flows like a raging river. Like the Wise Men, we prostrate ourselves and adore and worship God. And we give Him gifts. We give Him something for His funeral – our sins that nail Him to the cross.
Christ chose to be born, and He chose to die – for you. So, choose to live and die for Him. Don’t buy into the false rhetoric being sold today, even up on hills in Rome, that one God is as good as the other. Do not ever offer sacrifice to the pagan gods of this world. And do not listen to false shepherds who spread heresy while sucking up to whomever happens to be in charge in Rome.
Instead, live under the constant shadow of the cross. Live as St. Paul wrote, with the death of Christ inside you. If you do that, you won’t waste your life living in fear and suspicion. No, rather you will live a life filled with peace and true freedom.
Raise your eyes then, and look about. Darkness covers the earth, but your light has come. Raise your eyes and see His cross shadowing you. Then you shall be radiant at what you see, because over you appears His glory. The glory that saves you.
Used with permission from the author.