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.
This story details a real train wreck. Herod displays all the emotional self-control of a young adolescent, whipped around by fear and insecurity, and blinded by desire – all ending in an entirely predictable tragedy.
I wonder how he went “off the rails.” Herod was certainly young and impressionable once. You probably also know some people who may not be showing the signs of heading towards a future as thoughtful, compassionate human beings – maybe potential Herods, maybe potential saints.
Let’s consider a person you know whose future seems “on the fence.” Where is there an opportunity to explicitly affirm the better angels of this person’s personality?
St. Ignatius called for us to seek out and affirm the good in others as a tool of spiritual progress, rather than jumping to point out errors (SE 22). What gets noticed and affirmed — grows.
—Michael Coffey is the Executive Director of Casa Romero Renewal Center, an Ignatian, urban, bilingual spirituality center in the central city of Milwaukee.
As you contemplate the person you know who is “on the fence,” I invite you to pray with these lyrics from The Servant Song.
Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too
We are pilgrims on the journey
We are travellers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load
—Michael Coffey, song lyrics by Richard Gillard, © 1977, Scripture in Song.