Reflection on the Daily Readings for 8/01/09 by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Sat. of 17th week. Leviticus 25:1.8-17. Psalm 67:2-3.5.7-8.
Matthew 14:1-12. Lectionary # 406:
Enter the scene: Herod the tetrarch of Galilea and Perea, son of Herod the
Great (who ruled as a satellite king of Judaea under the Romans) is haunted
by the killing of John the Baptist at the instigation of his unlawful union
to Herodias, thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist “redivivus” come back to
life. His preaching and probably some of the wonders he did among the
people have certainly reached his ears and caused some jealousy and fear.
He realizes that he has had John the Baptist beheaded through his own
foolish oath to his courtiers and friends on the occasion of his birthday.
Salome the daughter of Herodias danced in such a way that the lustful
desires of the men were ablaze while the intoxicated, shameless, and proud
Herod fulfilled the request of the girl’s mother to have John beheaded. We
discover from the book of Revelation that there was also a fear in the
peopel that Nero who had committed suicide had also been a “redivivus” who
returned from the dead either as Domitian or one of the leaders of the
Parthian hordes that would threaten Roman power. Both Nero and Herod
Antipas, the tetrach, are murderers. Even some murders are haunted by what
they have done and Herod was one of them.
Later during the Passion of Jesus we will learn that Herod did not receive
any response from Jesus at his trial before him. “The silence with which
Jesus met his questions is perhaps the most severe rebuke administered by
Him (Jesus) in the entire Gospels, and Herod in anger labeled him a fool
and returned him to Pilate (Luke 23:7-12). The episode mentioned in Luke
13:31 in which the Pharisees warn Jesus that Herod wished to have him
murdered may have reflected an actual plan of the tetrarch; his remark that
this was John the Baptist risen from the dead (Matthew 14:1ff Mark
6:14ff.) may have expressed his fear that another popular preacher had
arisen to make him more odious to the people. ” ( Fr. McKenzie, Dictionary
of the Bible, p.356).
Muderers are not only accountable for the death of the victim but also for
the wounds and scars they put on the people and the families who have
suffered the loss of one of their own flesh and blood. We know how the
victims of the Holocaust have left horrible scars of fear, pain, and loss
in the memories of their loved ones.
Herod succumbed to his sinful habits of false oaths, murder, shame, and
human respect as well as intoxication. What a dreadful birthday! May we
pray that this does not happen in our town or city. Amen.