The Gospel Today
Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr
King Herod heard about Jesus, 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.
Herodias 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.
His 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?”
Her mother 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 (Sem. Maximilian B. Estayo)
I had the opportunity to once again praise God in a public assembly two Sundays ago during the visit of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron in Manila for a talk. Before he spoke, the host communities held a worship service.
I have not had the chance to join a worship service since I entered the seminary, since I had to leave my charismatic community for a while.
I was shy and timid in praising God publicly during my initial months in that community. But then, if it was God for whom I was raising my hands and uttering words of praise, why should I be ashamed?
We read in today’s Gospel how John the Baptist threw all caution to the wind and openly rebuked Herod for cohabiting with his brother’s wife. The prophet lost his head for standing up for the teachings of God.
One really needs courage to be able to profess his faith publicly; more so, if he is to speak against a wrongdoing or an injustice. It is as much risky today as it was in the time of John. But it is also a test of the depth of one’s belief in God.
Being able to praise God publicly is therefore, for me, a ‘small’ test of my faith. If I cannot openly proclaim the name of God in a roomful of worshipers, how can I announce His words in a world full of non-believers?
It is the Holy Spirit that supplies the courage (cf. 2 Tim. 1:7) that we need to speak God’s praise and spread His words. But the Spirit’s action depends on our participation, which is our desire to please the Lord in words and deeds no matter what it costs.