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John the Baptist, Triumphant in Death
Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
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.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to remain steadfast in my faith despite contradictions and opposing cultural currents.
- The Heart of Jesus: Can you imagine the heart of Jesus upon hearing of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist? Certainly Jesus was sorrowful and mourned the loss of the one whose voice cried out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” But, Jesus knew the sacrificial heart of this great announcer of the Kingdom of God. For this reason, Jesus surely experienced a certain pride at John’s triumph: his perseverance in faith and convictions, despite contradictions and harassment from the surrounding cultural currents.
- Contrasting Foundations: John the Baptist stands as an icon of one who remains steadfast and faithful amidst persecution. On the contrary stands Herod, whose indulgence and spineless values ended in nonsensical violence. Appearances are deceiving. Herod, full of temporal power, all the material goods and affection from an illicit marriage, was like the house that is built on sand. In the end, it fades away and nothing is left. John, a righteous, humble, and self-sacrificing man is like the house built on solid rock. His life was built on the Word of God. Even though he was beheaded, he was triumphant in the mission entrusted to him. What foundations are we building through our actions and chosen value system?
- Forming the Heart of a Disciple of Jesus: Jesus wants to form our heart into the heart of a disciple. Let’s ask Jesus how to maneuver our way through an increasingly secular culture that obscures foundational gospel values. It is easy to fall into the subtle errors of Herod, Herodias, and Salome: justifying actions contrary to the moral law, natural law, or Church teaching because it is masked by a reinterpreted definition of love; elimination of all that provokes irritation to the conscience; caving in to human respect or the morphed societal norm rather than standing upon perennial principles. Jesus wants to form our hearts into hearts willing to risk their reputation and life for the truth of the Gospel. Please, Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, help me to see clearly the difference between gospel values and anti-gospel cultural currents that bombard me daily. Grant me prudence, courage, and fortitude to remain steadfast in my adherence to your truth.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will listen and watch programs that feed my soul with gospel values, rejecting anti-gospel media.
For Further Reflection: Bishop Barron on Resisting Aggressive Secularism, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5zaYDpiOj8; Bishop Barron on Gay Marriage and the Breakdown of the Moral Argument https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYJ9BOcOxy8.
Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi who is dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala.