Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” (Mt 14:1-2).
After the death of Herod the Great (4 BC), one of his sons, Herod Antipas, was given a portion of his father’s kingdom by the Roman Emperor Augustus. Thus, Herod Antipas was the tetrarch, or prince, of Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. Herod, like, Pontius Pilate, held power as long as he was a faithful servant to Rome.
News of the ministry of Jesus got back to Herod and he believed Jesus to be John the Baptist raised from the dead. What followed in today’s Gospel were some reasons why Herod arrested and unjustly beheaded John the Baptist. John was killed for speaking truth to power, as happened often in the long line of prophets before him. Jesus would continue John’s ministry of calling for repentance, for a return to follow the will of God. He would also suffer capital punishment, at the hands of Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate. The Apostles and martyrs of the early Church followed John and Jesus, lived the truth publicly and courageously, and were bold witnesses of their faith.
How are we living our faith today? Are we faithful to the Gospel values that Jesus and the Apostles taught and were willing to die for? Do we serve Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate or Jesus the Christ? Do we assume a defensive posture or open ourselves to love? Are we putting our identity first or our integrity? Most of us are somewhere in between. The hope is that we are moving closer to serving God, being people of prayer and practice, and loving one another as we have been loved.
It is important to stop and reflect on questions such as these, to examine our thoughts, words, and actions and determine who it is that we are truly serving. It is not easy living the teachings of Jesus. We will fall short but we must remember that God loves us more than we can ever mess up. We experience his forgiveness, light, love, and mercy when we are continually willing to follow the call of John the Baptist and Jesus, which is to acknowledge when we have put something or someone first before God. When we then repent, we strengthen the relationship we have been created for.
When we are humble enough to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our mistakes, failures, and sins, we will experience his forgiveness and mercy, we will become more open to truly knowing his will and how best to serve him and each other. Embraced by and participating in the Trinitarian Communion of love, let us recommit ourselves today to living as Jesus’ disciples, to growing in courage to better follow his path, so to better live and speak his truth by promoting forgiveness, justice, love, mercy, and reconciliation in and out of season.
St. Mother Teresa knew who she served – “I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus.” Photo credit: Press Association