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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.

 

JOHN’S SUPREME WITNESS: THE SHEDDING OF HIS BLOOD

Mark’s account of John’s passion focuses on the vacillation of Herod and the desire for re­venge on the part of Herodias who schemes to kill John. Herodias feels insulted by John’s criti­cism of her union with her brother-in-law. She deliberately sends her daughter Salome to dance and induce Herod to grant her mother’s wish for revenge.

John the Baptist proves true to his role as a prophet: to console the poor and the oppressed and to trouble the comfortable. Like Elijah, he is a “disturber of Israel” in the eyes of the powers-that-be. John could have answered Herod and his cohorts in the manner of Elijah: “It is not I who disturb Israel, but you and your father’s house, by forsaking the commands of the Lord” (1 Kgs 18:18). Indeed, John is not like a reed that shakes in the wind; he is more a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze – against kings and princes, like another genuine prophet: Jeremiah (cf Jer 1:18).

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2017” 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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