King Herod 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.
Introductory Prayer: 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.
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
For though in the sight
of men they were punished,
their hope is
full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a
they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy
like gold in the furnace he
and like a sacrificial burnt
offering he accepted them (Wisdom 3:4-6).
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.
Resolution: 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.