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.
It is said that the best way to know if a metal is pure or mixed with alloys is to expose the metal to fire: if it is impure, the alloy in it will turn to dross and blacken the metal’s color, but if it is pure it will retain its color. In this case it is fire which separates the real from the imitation.
The same could be said about people who claim to be representing God and to be speaking in his name. In times of persecution we come to know who is sincere and who is not: the truly sincere maintain their stance at the risk of their lives, while the fake melt away into the landscape.
Jeremiah was a “reluctant prophet” if ever there was one. But once he accepted his prophetic vocation, he never wavered. His message was like his person—uncompromising. In today’s first reading we see him quietly ready to die at the hands of the Jerusalem priests and their lackey false prophets. Under the fire of death threats, he never changes his position. He is a true man of God.
How do we react when our Christian identity risks to cost us our job, our standing in the community, our future?
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