The Holy Innocents
The Responsorial Psalm speaks of God’s power and will to save us:
“Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare” (Psalm 124).
1 John 1:5 to 2:2 is based on recognition that the essential sin is simply to reject union — koinonia, fellowship, communion — with Jesus Christ. All other sins are just signs that tell us if we are in union with him or not.
For John, being in communion with the Christian community is the greatest sign of union with Christ. And living by Christ’s light is the sign we are in communion with the community: “If we walk in the light… we have fellowship with one another….”
In our day we are very conscious of the number of people who are not visibly members of the Church — who do not “assemble” with us, and perhaps do not explicitly believe in Jesus Christ. Does this mean they do not share in the divine life of grace? That they are in the death of darkness and separation from God? Not for us to judge. They might judge themselves by the presence or absence of the “fruit of the Spirit” in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23; Matthew 7:15-20).
And what of us who believe but still commit sins? Are we excluding ourselves from the community? John answers that sin does not exclude us if we acknowledge it as sin and keep trying. “If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful… and will forgive… and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”
The confession of sin is a profession of faith in Christ’s ideals. But if we rationalize our behavior and say, “We have not sinned,” then we reject his teaching and “his word is not in us.”
Matthew 2: 13-18 helps us understand how those who do not explicitly believe in Jesus are saved. It speaks of little babies who never knew Jesus — who were not even developed enough as human beings to make a free choice or a conscious act of faith. And yet the Church celebrates them as martyrs who died in witness to faith in Jesus Christ.
There are levels in the human soul that are deeper than conscious thought. And God is able to communicate with us in ways that bypass access through the brain. This is why babies, people who are “brain dead,” and people with insurmountable intellectual or emotional blocks against Christianity can respond to God’s call in ways invisible to us. Heaven is full of unlikely people singing “Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.”
Initiative: If you want to know Jesus, seek him where he can be found. Confess sin as sin. But continue to assemble with the community and to receive Christ, who is able to “rescue you from sin like a bird from the fowler’s snare.”