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The Need for Discernment
Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist
For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” “The head of John the Baptist,” she answered. At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, as I reflect on your words today, penetrate my heart with your love so that I can put aside all loves that don’t lead to you.
- Herod Was Greatly Puzzled: These simple words of Scripture are indicative of the need for discernment. What flustered Herod? Something resonated within him that did not sit well. John’s words provoked those sentiments or affective movements. Inwardly Herod found himself at a crossroad between attraction and resistance. John, the prophet of God, spoke to the core existential inclination of Herod’s heart. He, too, was called by God to a life of holiness and goodness, a participation in life itself. And yet, the consequences of his chosen path grated upon his moral nerve. Herod was troubled because he did not think it possible or desirable to make the break from sin and follow that barely kindled joy that resonated when truth and life are revealed.
- Herodias: Herodias saw John as an obstacle to her anticipated achievements. Like the enemy of our soul, she stopped at nothing to thwart the movement of Herod’s heart towards God’s truth and life. She was vigilant, always looking for opportunities to present themselves to further her ambition. Even her own daughter played into Herodias’s hands. By her daughter’s dance, Herodias exploited what was natural to Herod, his desire to please and his pride, to remove John’s influence from their lives.
- John the Baptist: John was an anomaly among the people of his time. While seen as crazy by some, and a thorn in the side to others, he attracted those who were sincerely seeking a path of truth and righteousness. Imprisonment did not stop him from speaking truth to the situations at hand. And in the end, it cost him his head, literally. He was beheaded and his head was brought in on a platter. It is a gross display of irreverence for a man who spoke of the things of God. Despite this end, his message still resonates today to those who will open their ears to listen without resistance. John continues reminding us to prepare a way for the Lord. Our task is to recognize any interior resistance and reject it so as to grow in the grace of God.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, grant me true discernment to detect the interior movements that come from my original call to holiness and love. Grant that I may be vigilant and name and resist anything that stands in the way of a true surrender to you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will listen interiorly for any resistance I feel toward living greater faith, hope, and charity.
For Further Reflection: Resistance in the Spiritual Life.
Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi 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 and “Nine Days with Mary Magdalene.”
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