This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, 1 John 1:5—2:2
5 This is what we have heard from him and are declaring to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 If we say that we share in God’s life while we are living in darkness, we are lying, because we are not living the truth. 7 But if we live in light, as he is in light, we have a share in another’s life, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us;
9 if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil. 10 If we say, ‘We have never sinned,’ we make him a liar, and his word has no place in us.
1 My children, I am writing this to prevent you from sinning; but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the upright. 2 He is the sacrifice to expiate our sins, and not only ours, but also those of the whole world.
If there is no darkness in God, where does it come from? Whether we answer, from humanity or from Satan, we are still left with the problem that the all-powerful One permits its existence, at least for now. Perhaps we might say that God has forbidden its existence by means of his love in Jesus and that its extinction is certain although it may take some time. God’s gentle way with darkness is part of his goodness.
We are not free from sin but we can choose whether to live in God’s truth, his un-covering light, or to live under cover of darkness, that is, of lies. Those who choose darkness cannot share God’s life, while those who choose light can do so even if they sin; for the light unveils the sin and leads to its acknowledgment by the sinner, who can then receive the forgiveness of God.
Jesus is the advocate who by his self-sacrifice has identified himself with sinners and their cause. Through him, even sinful people can share the life of God. This is a very rich series of verses which repays close study.
Gospel, Matthew 2:13-18
13 After they had left, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’
14 So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I called my son out of Egypt.
16 Herod was furious on realising that he had been fooled by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or less, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men.
17 Then were fulfilled the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.
This incident is recorded nowhere else in the Bible or in secular history. Probably it didn’t happen. Herod was occasionally cruel and unjust, but such a massacre would have stuck to his reputation forever; and there is no evidence of this. We are left with the suspicion that it was invented by Matthew or one of his sources. It fulfils a number of purposes in Matthew’s narrative:
1. It highlights the theme of Jesus as the true king, here hunted by the false one, but protected by God.
2. It gets Jesus to Egypt, which allows Matthew to use the words of Hosea as a prophecy, “I called my son out of Egypt” –words originally meant as a description of the Exodus.
3. It gives Matthew another fulfilled prophecy in the sad verse from Jeremiah, originally meant to describe the sack of Jerusalem.
4. It provides a complicated itinerary by which the holy family, resident originally in Bethlehem, come to live in Nazareth.
Massacres of children have taken place throughout human history but this does not justify adding to their number by invention. The Messianic theology of the passage is forceful and coherent but we should beware of telling fibs to justify our belief. Scientific historians are right to be impatient with those who do so.