The Gospel according to Mark (6:17-29)
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist 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’ 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.
Reflection: I hadn’t realized until I was preparing this reflection the title of today’s memorial – the Passion of St John the Baptist. It’s the only other day in the church year where we hear of the “Passion”, other than for Jesus Himself (Passion or Palm Sunday, and Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion). In today’s Gospel, we see John’s last act as the forerunner of his cousin Jesus, giving up his life as an innocent man, as Jesus would do later.
The thing I’d like to focus on in the reflection today is how the characters in today’s reading all are complicit in the outcome. Herod, Herodias, Herodias’ daughter, the executioner – all shared responsibility in John’s execution. But, there’s another group, too – those present at the birthday banquet. Mark does not record that any of them objected to the execution of an innocent man. Of course, it’s probably true that, if they had spoken up, they would have, likely as not, met the same fate.
But, there is a lesson here. How many times have I not spoken up, even in the face of something I know to be wrong? How many times have I been silent while listening to another say unkind things about someone? Why don’t we speak up? Maybe it’s for the same reason that Herod seemingly went along with the daughter’s request – we don’t want to offend, or come off as uncharitable ourselves. But, when we do that, we do share some of the responsibility for the bad act, even if we did not do it ourselves.
That’s probably an uncomfortable thought – it definitely is to me. But, we who call ourselves followers of Jesus do have a higher calling than just “getting along”. Our lives are meant to stand out, and to shine out the light of Jesus’ love, where everyone has dignity, simply because each of us is a son or daughter of God. Do we bear that in mind as we go through our days? If we did have that as the basis for our actions – all of us – wouldn’t we make the world a much better place? May we see that as our mission every day!
Action for the Day: It’s probably very hard to think of interceding for another who is being treated unfairly, or who is subject to others saying untrue things about them. Pray that God will give you the grace and the courage to stand up for the person in that situation, should you be present, and know that God will give you the words to say. It can change all three lives (yours, the one being hurt and, even more, the one inflicting the pain).
If you would like to hear this reflection, click the link below!