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Herod’s Opinion of Jesus and the Death of John the Baptist
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
At that time 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: Lord Jesus, open my heart to hear the truth of your word and give me courage and wisdom to stand for truth.
- Pointing Out the Obvious: John the Baptist was an original and unique prophet. He is considered the last of the great prophets. What is a prophet? In the Old Testament, prophets spoke a message from God regarding the present time. It was often a warning of what was to come if one did not convert one’s ways. A prophet is a person who reads the signs of the times and attempts to speak God’s revealed truth into the particular situation. At times, prophets are simply pointing out the obvious. John the Baptist pointed out the obvious to Herod the Tetrarch, but the message was not welcome. It grated against Herod’s conscience because he did not desire to change his sinful ways.
- Prophets for Our Days: Far from wanting to condemn a person, a prophet presents the word of God to evoke an open heart to hear his message. They speak God’s word in order to enlighten others with the hope of helping them to come face-to-face with the merciful and loving God. As Christians we are called to heed the “prophets” of our days as well as to participate in the prophetic ministry of Christ by assimilating and striving to share God’s word wherever it is relevant to particular situations. How can we grow in knowledge and love for God’s word so that it informs our way of thinking, acting, and speaking? How does God’s word become the lens by which we read the signs of the times?
- The Beheading: John’s courage to speak the truth cost him his head, literally. His horrendous death came about through the nonsensical request of a young woman. The pride and vanity of Herod made him spineless and he was unable to resist the request for John’s head. Sin strives to silence the voice of conscience and the voice of God’s truth. But it never has the last word. John’s beheading for the sake of upholding truth became a light in the darkness. The event gave witness down through the centuries to our present day. Many saints will follow in the same prophetic path, whether it be by speaking words or by their actions, remaining firmly rooted in truth and faith. St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher are but two examples. Will we be counted among the prophetic voices of our days?
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, increase my faith and trust in your word. Help me to welcome your revelation as truth that guides my vision and actions. Help me to read the signs of the times, to encourage others along the path of truth, and to stand firm in the faith.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will be attentive to moments when my vision of situations needs to be informed by the Gospel truth. I will look to the word of God to give me light about my particular situation.
For Further Reflection: Two Events That Will Precede the Lord’s Return: Are We Seeing Them Now? Ralph Martin, Renewal Ministries.
Written by Jennifer Ristine.