Monday, August 29, 2016

Reflection: Mark 6:17-29

Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist - Mark 6:17-29 

Today we recall the Passion of John the Baptist.  Mark chronicles John’s arrest, imprisonment and death.  It is a horrific story and it mirrors the atrocities that we human beings continually perpetrate on one another. 

John’s crime was that he bluntly told Herod that is was not lawful for him to marry Herodias, his brother’s wife.  When Herodias heard this, she harbored a grudge against John and she was determined to have him killed; however, she did not have the authority or means to do so.  Herodias was a clever, manipulative and conniving woman, however, and she began planning how to get revenge on John.

It so happened that Herod had a birthday celebration.  He had invited many esteemed guests to his party.  During the celebration, Herodias’ daughter performed a beautiful dance that enchanted Herod and his guests.  Herod was so enthralled by her performance that he said the girl: “Ask of me whatever you will and I will give it to you, even if you ask me for half of my kingdom.”

The girl quickly went to her mother and asked her what she should ask of Herod.  Her mother immediately said: “Ask for the head of John the Baptist.”   Herodias’ daughter returned to Herod and told him that she wanted the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  Herod was distressed by her request.  He admired John and respected him.  Yet, he had given his oath and all of his guests had witnessed this oath.  What would they think of him if he did not keep his word?  Herod truly was in a bind.

Finally, Herod gave the order to have John beheaded.  And so it happened: John’s head was brought to Herod on a platter.  Herod gave it to the girl and the girl gave it to her mother. 

I assume that at times all of us have been in a bind.  Perhaps we were asked to do something that we knew was not right.  At some point in the future we likely will be in a similar situation.  It is difficult to stand up and do what is right when there is pressure from others to conform to what they do.  At these times, will we have the strength and courage to stand our ground and do what we know is right and just?  Or will we cave in to please others or to look good? 

Today may we pray for the strength and courage to do what we believe is right, even if others may not approve of our choice or our action.  May we always strive to have the integrity and courage of John the Baptist, who stood firm in his beliefs even though it ended up costing him his life.  What a wonderful and brave model is for us!  May we strive to live as John lived!

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