Absolute Power

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Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time


Matthew 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, for John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people, for they regarded him as a prophet. But at a birthday celebration for Herod, the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests and delighted Herod so much that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests who were present, he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.


Opening Prayer: My Lord and my Father, as I sit before you today and read these words, open my eyes to any sinfulness that may need to be rooted out of my life. May I keep my eyes on you.


Encountering Christ:


  1. Rules of Convenience: Herod certainly knew that his relationship with his “wife” Heroidas was immoral. Herod’s family had converted to Judaism when they married into the families of some powerful Jews. Rome chose to name him as tetrarch because of his status amongst the Jews. Herod was bound as a Jew to observe Mosaic law, and John the Baptist quite correctly pointed out that taking your brother’s wife as your own, and divorcing your own wife to do so, was wrong. Although Scripture tells us that Herod liked to listen to John (Mark 6:20), he certainly did not appreciate John’s public condemnation of his marriage. As tetrarch, Herod’s actions tell us he felt he could make his own rules. 
  2. Birthday Party: When Herodias’s daughter performed a dance for the guests, Herod rashly promised her anything she wanted. Herodias, who was angered by John’s public condemnation of her marriage, prompted her daughter to demand the head of John the Baptist on a platter, and Herod had some tough choices to make. As tetrarch, he could have reneged using any excuse to refuse to execute John. However, because Herod was enslaved by sin, he lacked the moral strength to refuse Herodias. He cared too much about what his guests would think to spare John. Herod succumbed to his pride.
  3. Pride: Herod’s pride and arrogance cause him to murder a man he actually held in regard. “Pride is a sin that is so pervasive, runs so deep within us, that we often don’t even sense it is there. Not only is it a sinful drive in itself, it also plays a role in every other sin we commit. Pride is the sin we most share with Satan and the fallen angels” (Msgr. Charles Pope). We may not have the wealth, power, or prestige Herod wielded as tetrarch but we are just as vulnerable to the sin of pride. Every remnant of pride must be banished from our soul along the narrow path to holiness. Let us examine our actions and thoughts for selfishness, self-sufficiency, envy of others, and other forms of pride and bring them to our merciful Lord in the sacrament of Reconciliation.


Conversing with Christ: Lord, save me from my pride. Grant me true humility. When I have acted wrongly, please give me the grace to accept correction and amend my ways. Help me to use any authority you have given me in my personal life, volunteer work, or the workplace in a way that is pleasing to you. 


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray the Litany of Humility


For Further Reflection: 

Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth, bears with all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). To have charity is to love God above all things for himself and be ready to renounce all created things rather than offend him by serious sin (Matthew 22:36-40).


Cathy Stamper is a wife, a mother of five young adults, and business owner. She reads and writes from her home in Maryland where she lives with her husband, her beloved dog, and an assortment of finicky cats.

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