- 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 and Psalm 24 or
- Amos 7:7-15 and Psalm 85:8-13 and
- Ephesians 1:3-14 •
- Mark 6:14-29
Thoughts on The Word:
14King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
This week's Gospel is one of those readings many choose not to preach on. It is a hard thing to read - I mean what message, what good are we to take from the beheading of an innocent man? What can we take from this horrible murder? We can take a warning - a warning about the perils of putting our own ego above all else. You see that is what happened here in this story - the reason John the Baptist is killed is for no other reason than to maintain the egos of Herodias and Herod.
Herodias was angry because John was pointing out that her marriage to Herod was immoral. This was unacceptable, how dare he say that she was immoral! What would people think of her if this man kept going around saying that what she did was wrong - after all, they were calling him a prophet - people were listening to him, and respected what he said... no this wouldn't do he needed to be stopped - and permanently.
Herod, it seems was a man of compromise - he wanted his wife to be happy, so he had john arrested but he wouldn't kill him - we are told he feared him, as a righteous and holy man. It seems though the Herod's fear and his acknowledgement of John as a righteous and holy man was not enough when his ego was tested as well.
As the tail unfolds we see Herod becomes so enamored with his step daughter (his niece) and her dancing. He is so pleased that he offers her anything she wishes - even half of his kingdom! The girl seeks her mothers counsel and returns with her mothers demand for the head of John. Now Herod finds himself in a bit of a pickle - what can he do? He promised her anything she asked for in front of all these guests - what would they think of him if he didn't keep his word? The might lose respect for him - they may even stop fearing him as their king! This would never do - he couldn't be seen to be weak. We are told that he was greatly grieved at the decision - he didn't want to kill John - yet his grief was not enough to overcome his ego.
Herod gives the order - he makes the decision that his own pride - his own position and power is more important than the life of this righteous and holy man.
There is a message in all of this for us. How often do we choose to put our own ego, our own pride ahead of God? How many times do we choose not to share the Gospel with people because we don't want to be seen to be one of those Christians. after all it might be embarrassing - it might make us the target of ridicule. You see every time we put our own pride first we commit the same sin as Herod. We may not be killing someone right then and there, but we are committing the same act of placing ourselves, and our own ego in a position above where we place the Holy one of God, and by refusing to share the Gospel we may just be robbing someone of their opportunity to learn of Jesus - and that may well cost them more than their physical life - it could cost them their eternal life.
I have been guilty of this sin on so many occasions - and the troubling thing is that I have often justified my actions by saying to myself something like 'they don't want to hear it anyway - they might nod and smile but they won't really listen so why embarrass myself?'. I look back now and I wonder if I have contributed to the loss of someones soul through putting myself and my ego above the Gospel. It is something I may need to answer for on judgement day. What about you? will you be able to stand up on judgement day and say 'I always took every opportunity given me to share the Gospel'?
Let us then renew our commitment to God and to the Gospel. Let us commit ourselves to always share the Gospel - to 'preach the Gospel always...', in the words of St Francis of Assissi. Let us not fall into the trap of Herodias and Herod by being concerned with protecting our own egos at the expense of the righteous and Holy one of God.
God bless you this week.