February 3, 2012
Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary
Listen to the podcast version here.
heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and
people were saying, "John the Baptist has been raised from
the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work
in him." Others were saying, "He is Elijah"; still others,
"He is a prophet like any of the prophets." But
when Herod learned of it, he said, "It is John
whom I beheaded. He has been raised up." Herod was
the one who had John arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
whom he had married. John had said to Herod, "It
is not lawful for you to have your brother´s wife."
Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill
him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John,
knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and
kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he
was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to
him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on
his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military
officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias´s own daughter
came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and
his guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask of
me whatever you wish and I will grant it to
you." He even swore (many things) to her, "I will
grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half
of my kingdom." She went out and said to her
mother, "What shall I ask for?" She replied, "The head
of John the Baptist." The girl hurried back to the
king´s presence and made her request, "I want you to
give me at once on a platter the head of
John the Baptist." The king was deeply distressed, but because
of his oaths and the guests he did not wish
to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched
an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He
went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought
in the head on a platter and gave it to
the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her
mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and
took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Lord, I believe in you and all that you taught
as it has been passed down to us through your
Church. I hope in you, knowing that you will never
send me out of your presence. Only by sin could
I cut myself away from your loving hands. Although I
am weak, I trust that you will keep me close.
Lord, I love you and long for my love for
you to grow, for you deserve so much better than
my measly offering. Yet I know, too, that you are
pleased with my desire for you.
Petition: Grant me, O Lord,
an honest and sincere heart.
1. “It is John whom I
beheaded. He has been raised up.” The verdict of conscience
always makes itself known. Herod’s guilt regarding John the Baptist’s
murder is projected into the present as a haunting memory.
Those who have radically rejected God, though they might possess
great power or wealth, great intelligence or ability, are ultimately
the most insecure people on earth. When true goodness appears
in their life, it presents itself as a threat. It
condemns them and alienates them from themselves. All this is
but a reflection of their state of soul before God.
Such is the power of man’s conscience: it imposes its
painful sentence long before the person ever reaches the ultimate
tribunal of justice. Like Christ, we can only remain silent
before the Herods of the world, praying that they break
their resistance to grace.
2. “He was very much perplexed yet
he liked to listen to him…” “Fear the grace of
God that passes never to return.” In the lives of
all persons, even the wicked, enough goodness is given them
to be saved, enough such that God can offer them
the truth of salvation within the scope of their freedom.
Such graces last for only a time, not forever. These
moments cannot be treated as moments that temporarily pacify our
conscience, only to permit us to continue in our sin
and resistance to living a holy life. Herod feared John,
knew he was a holy man and felt the attraction
of his words, but he did nothing to respond to
it. You cannot play around with God and win. Herod
loses and attacked what he knew he should love. This
tragedy must teach us to be sincere and never imprison
the voice of God in our soul, but to let
it reign in our life. We must use our freedom
to respond to God’s voice, breaking the chains of human
respect or fear of sacrifice that bind us to darkness.
3. He Was Beheaded in Prison: The last honor Christ
could offer a faithful apostle, who has stood firm in
the truth against the twisted provocations of evil around him,
is––in some sense––a “full” participation in his Paschal Mystery. What
began as testimony by proclaiming conversion, John now concludes with
testimony to the victorious hope the blessed possess in Christ.
This is never clearer than in a martyr’s death as
intimated in this passage from the Book of Wisdom:
For though in the sight of men they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined
they will receive great good,
God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
gold in the furnace he tried them,
a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them (Wisdom 3:4-6).
we accept today the hard road of fidelity so as
to be “disciplined a little” and be found worthy of
the hope that is “full of immortality.”
Conversation with Christ: Let
me experience, dear Jesus, the glory of your martyrs through
many small acts of fidelity—to my conscience, to my mission
and to the service to souls. Heroic and filled with
hope, may I accept a sentence of love and not
fear any path you set before me today. May I
be like one who has died and yet lives the
blossom of a holy life that will never end.
I will work to be sincere in all I do,
and use the sacrament of confession as a place of
constant conversion and openness to God’s will.