King Herod also heard about Jesus, because his name had become well-known. Some people said,
John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.
He is Elijah,
He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.
When Herod was told of this, he thought,
I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!
For this is what had happened: Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him,
It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.
So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.
Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.
And he went so far as to say with many oaths,
I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.
She went out and said to her mother,
What shall I ask for?
The mother replied,
The head of John the Baptist.
The girl hurried to the king and made her request,
I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.
The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.
We often hear the adage that “the truth will set us free, but it will hurt us first.” We know from experience how painful it is to listen to a feedback especially when we know it is true. This is the insight we can glean from today’s gospel. For Herodias, the truth hurt her by bringing the worst out of her, as she reacted to the truth with murderous machinations. For Herod, the truth hurt him by filling his heart with fright, worry, vacillation and resentment towards John, the bearer of the truth. It hurt him by haunting him and making him appear spineless, conflicted and weak to stand up to the truth that he recognized in John. Although John’s commitment to speak the truth also hurt him, bringing about his execution, it freed him to fulfill his mission of casting away anything that blocks God’s path. Truth is like a two-edged sword; it will hurt as it cuts through our inner spirit revealing areas in our life we find shameful or unacceptable, areas that beg for healing, love and forgiveness. Christ invites us to listen to shepherd’s voice saying, “Everyone who seeks the truth hears my voice.”
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