The Gospel Today
Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”
Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.
When we hear someone saying bad things about us, it is natural to get hurt, perhaps even to feel the need to avenge ourselves upon that person. It is simply how self-preservation works. Our psyche rebels against the thought of being trampled upon. We want to keep ourselves on an even keel.
However, there are times when the deprecation we hear is true. We know that the content of the accusation mirrors historical fact, that it is based on observable data. At these times, self-preservation also works in the same way as above. Yet it is with the additional intention of maintaining our acceptable image in the eyes of others. We know that if the truth of the accusation is proven, we would no longer feel the same sense of belonging with society. Therefore, our response to prevent this unwanted thing from happening is much greater. We are able to resort to more destructive forms of behavior in order to avert the disaster from ourselves.
On the other hand, we know that, as Christians, we ought to follow the example of our Lord Jesus. In his lifetime, even before the final hours of his earthly existence, he received more than a smattering of slur. His hometown, family, and nation were insulted. He was called a follower of Beelzebub, a trouble-maker, an insurrectionist, and violator of the Sabbath. All these things led to his public humiliation, torture, and execution.
What about us? Can we endure a comparably minute amount of embarrassment, if it means that we turn the other cheek? When we hear bad things said about us, can we be forgiving of others as God has been forgiving of us? Sometimes, being a prophet like Jeremiah or John the Baptist means accepting a huge amount of insults from the world around us. Being a prophet means knowing that your life is no longer your own, it is for the Kingdom of God.