Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Sir 47:2-11
Like the choice fat of the sacred offerings, so was David in Israel. He made sport of lions as though they were kids, and of bears, like lambs of the flock. As a youth he slew the giant and wiped out the people’s disgrace, when his hand let fly the slingstone that crushed the pride of Goliath. Since he called upon the Most High God, who gave strength to his right arm to defeat the skilled warrior and raise up the might of his people, Therefore the women sang his praises, and ascribed to him tens of thousands and praised him when they blessed the Lord. When he assumed the royal crown, he battled and subdued the enemy on every side. He destroyed the hostile Philistines and shattered their power till our own day. With his every deed he offered thanks to God Most High, in words of praise. With his whole being he loved his Maker and daily had his praises sung; He set singers before the altar and by their voices he made sweet melodies, He added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year So that when the Holy Name was praised, before daybreak the sanctuary would resound. The LORD forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever; He conferred on him the rights of royalty and established his throne in Israel.
Gospel: Mk 6:14-29
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.
STAND WITH THE LORD: David could conquer his external enemies, Goliath or mighty nations, with ease. But he could not control his inner enemy and yielded to it with little resistance, and fell to the sin of adultery. He overcame his weakness through repentance, pleading and relying on the mercy of God whom he loved with his whole being. In the gospel, John the Baptist daringly proclaims God in front of King Herod openly condemning his immoral life, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” He knew well that his life was in danger. But he knew better that he was with God and God was with him. Herod and Herodias plotted against this holy man and eventually killed him. However, death could neither conquer him nor overcome the truth. May we be courageous people of truth.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us not to yield to the dancing of worldly attractions but to be your daring and credible witnesses.
BE NOT THE LAST ONE STANDING: “There is no greater fury than a woman scorned”, is a saying from the wise. The righteous, strong willed, holy John the Baptist spoke forthright, but had to pay with his life. The world would be poorer and less civil, but for people like John. His ideals and convictions take such a stronghold that nothing else is worthier. In the same world we sadly see the spineless, self-possessed Herod succumbing to his own pride. Herods are plenty in our times too; persons who cannot withstand the overpowering influence of evil. Persons who let themselves be enslaved in the grip of the evil one. Herod gives us the picture of a man who is striving to be good. Yet, his continuous co-habitation with vice engulfed in his ego, weakens his spirit and diminishes his ability to be good. He enters into the books of history, all for the wrong reasons. True leaders are meant to portray moral attitude. In our Church, may we raise the bar towards Christ’s values.