Friday of the 4th Week in Ordinary Time
Psalm 18:47 and 50, 51
Herod feared John and yet he liked to listen to him. But when he did he was very much perplexed and afraid to respond…
Perhaps Herod drank a little too much! His daughter so caught his attention and that of his guests that Herod made a foolish promise and then feared that if he denied her outrageous request he would be shamed in front of his guests.
When he heard about Jesus he fearfully thought “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up”! I wonder what might have happened If he had understood who Jesus really was… In the end, Herod was complicit in Jesus’ death.
How often do we put ourselves into foolish, perhaps sinful, situations and then are afraid to extricate ourselves because “What will others think?” How often do we sense God’s presence in our midst, or have that odd sense of something spiritual happening, drawing us to a deeper spirituality, self-knowledge, intimacy with God, or a growing awareness that something more is being offered to us —and suddenly distract ourselves because we don’t want others to think we have gone a little crazy?
John certainly looked crazy to many. Jesus said: among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet whoever is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he (Matthew 11:11). In our North American culture we Christians look pretty irrelevant and out of touch to many. Sometimes we just want to “fit in”. Other times we seem to need to justify ourselves by virtually force feeding our beliefs to others.
Yesterday our gospel was preceded by the sending out of the Twelve… two by two to preach and heal.
Perhaps Mark was intending to warn us with today’s story that to be Jesus’ disciple can be dangerous. But fidelity to that call can also bring new life through us to others. Tomorrow we will hear how Jesus and the Twelve needed to go to a deserted place and rest a while because their risky ministry was drawing great numbers.
Fr. John M. Lee, C.P., is Retreat Director of Bishop Molloy Retreat House, “The Passionist Spiritual Center in New York City”, www.bishopmolloy.org