For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him.
When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
My grandma died a few weeks ago after a decade-long struggle with an ugly mix of depression and dementia. Hers was a gradual decline, losing memory like a cook slowly peeling away the layers of an onion. Her suffering was extended, her passion drawn out. John the Baptist’s life came to a much swifter end. While his time in captivity must have been unpleasant, his passion was short and his suffering relatively abrupt.
As Christian people, we proclaim Christ crucified. It seems absurd—to celebrate Christ’s pain. But, really, it’s the genius of Christianity. If God can be, and is, present in the agony of the cross, then where is he not present? John’s beheading, my grandma’s decline—these are places where God can be found.
To ponder today: how do I understand the ‘foolishness’ of worshiping a God who suffered?
—Mark Bartholet lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he works with the Jesuits at St. Peter Catholic Church. He is also a graduate of John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.
Lord, how could it be that you allowed your dear cousin John to be beheaded? How could it be that you allowed James Foley, beloved journalist, to suffer a similar fate. This we know — your grace and hope fortified their spirit into life everlasting. And their quest for the truth lives on and on in the countless lives touched by their courage and love.
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!