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The death of John the Baptist

Gospel Reading: Mk 6:17-29
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. 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’s 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

They… took his body and laid it in a tomb
The disciples here are John the Baptist’s. Like any other popular preacher or charismatic leader of groups like the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes, and Qumran people, John the Baptist has his disciples or followers.

It must shock his disciples to learn of John’s execution. What a waste of the life of a holy man! And all because of Herod’s mistakes: his illicit relationship with the wife of his brother Philip, his tactless oath to give whatever is asked, and his cowardice to take back a bad promise. Herod’s recklessness victimizes John whom he wants to keep.

The remains of John are probably discarded unceremoniously. His disciples are quick to take his body and pay him their last respects before burying him.

The action of John’s disciples presages how also Jesus’ body will be taken from the cross and laid in a tomb.

Do you treat your dead with care, respect, love, and devotion?

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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