Meditation: Do you ever feel haunted by a past failure or a guilty conscience? The Lord Jesus came to set us free from the oppression of sin and guilt. King Herod, the most powerful and wealthy man in Judea, had everything he wanted, except a clear conscience and peace with God. Herod had respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet and servant of God. John, however did not fear to rebuke Herod for his adulterous relationship with his brother's wife, Herodias. John ended up in prison because of Herodias' hatred and jealousy. Herod, out of impulse and a desire to please his family and friends, had John beheaded. Now Herod's conscience is pricked when he hears that some think that the Baptist has risen.
Guilt and pride cripples - repentance and pardon heals
When Herod heard the fame of Jesus he supposed that John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded, had returned from the dead. Unfortunately for Herod, he could not rid himself of sin by ridding himself of the man who confronted him with his sin. Herod was a weak man. He could take a strong stand on the wrong things when he knew the right. Such a stand, however, was a sign of weakness and cowardice. The Lord gives grace to the humble, to those who acknowledge their sins and who seek God's mercy and pardon. His grace and pardon not only frees us from a guilty conscience, it enables us to pursue holiness in thought and action as well. God's grace enables us to fight fear with faith and to overcome the temptation to compromise goodness and truth with wrongdoing and falsehood.
John Chrysostom describes John's death as a crown:
In what way, then, was this just man harmed by this demise, this violent death, these chains, this imprisonment? Who are those he did not set back on their feet - provided they had a penitent disposition - because of what he spoke, because of what he suffered, because of what he still proclaims in our own day - the same message he preached while he was living. Therefore, do not say: "Why was John allowed to die?" For what occurred was not a death, but a crown, not an end, but the beginning of a greater life. Learn to think and live like a Christian. You will not only remain unharmed by these events, but will reap the greatest benefits.(ON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD 22.10)Do you rely on God's grace and help to choose his way of holiness and to reject whatever would compromise your faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ?
"Heavenly Father, form in me the likeness of your Son that I may imitate him in word and deed. Help me to live the Gospel faithfully and give me the strength and courage I need to not shrink back in the face of adversity and temptation."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/