Around the year 64, the city of Rome experienced a devastating fire. Emperor Nero blamed it on the Christians, and a severe persecution followed. Included in the mass murder of Christians were the First Martyrs of Rome. We don’t know their names, but their witness to the faith is certain.
According to the account in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, King Herod slaughtered a number of male babies in an attempt to rid himself of the perceived threat of a usurper to his throne. What he didn’t realize is that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world─a fact that emerges later in Saint Matthew’s Gospel.
Under the title of the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin is the patron of the United States. Thus this is a major feast—in fact a Holy Day of Obligation—for the Church in the United States of America.
Saint Paul tells us in his Letter to the Philippians that Jesus’ name is above every other name. It is the name in which we are all saved. Devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus is deeply rooted in Christian history.
This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus: both have the possibility of uniting people easily divided on other matters. Mary encourages us to cooperate with Jesus in building a peace based on justice.
Saint John the Baptist is one of the few saints who have two feast days. Today we celebrate his birth, which Saint Luke narrates in his Gospel. There Luke draws a parallel between the births of Jesus and John, pointing out the important role in the history of salvation that John the Baptist would play.
Affirming the humanity of Jesus, the Church celebrates the birth of Mary, his mother. While Scripture does not record the birth of Mary, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James notes the development of Christian piety around Mary's parents and her birth.
All feast days celebrate, in one way or another, the gifts of God granted to us human beings. Today we celebrate THE gift─the Son of God made flesh. A gift granted to all people of all times and places. Truly we have been gifted.