Sunday Vigil

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 14,1-12

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the reputation of Jesus and said to his court, 'This is John the Baptist himself; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.' Now it was Herod who had arrested John, chained him up and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. For John had told him, 'It is against the Law for you to have her.' He had wanted to kill him but was afraid of the people, who regarded John as a prophet. Then, during the celebrations for Herod's birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and so delighted Herod that he promised on oath to give her anything she asked. Prompted by her mother she said, 'Give me John the Baptist's head, here, on a dish.' The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. John's disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went off to tell Jesus.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Herod the Tetrarch, of whom this Gospel passage speaks, is part of the same dynasty of the royal family that appears in the Gospel's accounts of Jesus' childhood. Once again, the current Herod is afraid of losing his power. His predecessor was frightened by the information given to him by the Magi and confirmed by Scripture. The Word of God never leaves things as they are. It demands that everyone change their lives, their attitudes, and the thoughts of their hearts. In order to hold on to his power, the Herod of Jesus' childhood ordered the cruel massacre of innocent children. Defending ourselves and our interests easily leads to eliminating those we consider adversaries. This is why Jesus asks us to pull up every violent thought by the roots. The example of this Gospel page is eloquent: a whim is sufficient to start a whirlpool of violence that leads to death. The Gospel notes that Herod had been struck by the clarity of John's words, which rebuked him for his wicked behaviour. Consequently, Herod had him imprisoned, thinking that he would silence his voice. Evil uses even a whim in order to silence prophecy. We could say that this is what happens when whims take over: eyes become blind and evil takes over. The death of John the Baptist was a bitter blow for Jesus. It was a warning even for him; but Jesus did not stop. Certainly the path leading to the cross was becoming clearer and clearer. But it is the way of the Gospel that this Gospel passage reminds us. There is an unavoidable dimension of the Gospel. To give one's life even at the cost of death. The many martyrs who still today give their life are an evangelic example of men and women that we need to keep in our hearts with care and admiration.