Gospel: Mt 14:1-12
At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”
Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.
On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”
The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.
Then John’s disciples came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.
The evangelist Matthew recalls the story of John the Baptist’s execution under Herod after Jesus was rejected by his town mates. He seems to suggest that there is a similar fate that awaits Jesus. He too will suffer the death of an innocent. Rejection and suffering, deserved or undeserved, will always be part of the fate of the Church, the Body of Christ. It is best to look at them against the background of Jesus’ own experience and those of the prophets and martyrs. Our own crucifixion as Church and the proper attitude that must accompany it can become powerful tools of witnessing to the Crucified Lord.
Making sense of meaningless suffering and death especially that of innocent victims appears to be quite impossible. We think of the victims of genocide, suicide bombings and abortion. Their death is, in a way, similar to the death of John the Baptist and the crucifixion of Jesus. Somebody suggested that the best we can do is recall that it was because of such insanity that Jesus came into the world. He came precisely to defeat evil by his own suffering, death and resurrection. Our mission as his disciples is to continue his work until the end of time when He will bring everything into victorious conclusion.