Faith Daily | 5 February 2021
PRAYER of the WEEK Epiphany Four
you have taught us
that all our doings without love are worth nothing:
send your Holy Spirit,
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you;
grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.
Amen APBA p533
GOSPEL for the Day: Mark 6: 14-29
14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ 15But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’
17 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. 18For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for 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. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When 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.’ 23And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ 24She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ 25Immediately 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.’ 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
GOSPEL Reflection: Contributed by Mary Rose
Tradition has it the gospel of Mark was written by John Mark a follower of the apostle Peter, and scholars believe that it was the first gospel written; Matthew and Luke borrowing greatly from it when writing their accounts. Early church fathers wrote that Mark collected his stories about Jesus’ life from Peter, one of Jesus’ closest apostles and friends. Keeping this in mind I have to ponder why he chose to tell some incidents like this in such detail.
We know how important John the Baptist is in the story of Jesus. He was the one who came before Jesus as well as a relative, born by a miracle. John baptised Jesus when he came to him asking to be baptised and saw the dove descend and heard God proclaiming that Jesus was his Son.
However as one commentator said “John the Baptist is the forerunner of Jesus both in life and in death” and this is so apparent in this account. John’s life foreshadows what will happen to Jesus – his healing and preaching bringing the gathering crowds, upsetting those in high places by pointing out their weaknesses and hypocrisy and finally being sent to die by a king who lets political and personal factors scare him into sentencing a good man to death and finally friends coming to bury him.
We know that prior to this Herod (Antipas) had arrested John and placed him in prison. There seems to be two reasons given for his arrest. One was the fact that John had been preaching and baptising people and was attracting great crowds and so posed a political threat and the other was that he had been loudly criticising Herod for divorcing his wife and stealing his half-brother’s wife Herodias. John decried this scandalous marriage as an offence against God and the Jews would have been horrified by the king’s actions. Needless to say Herodias hated John and Mark suggests that it is for his wife that he arrested John and ultimately it is she who Mark’s account says is responsible for his death.
The scene where Salome, his step-daughter, dances for Herod and the party is a well known story and has been interpreted in plays and operas. Herod is so delighted by her dancing that he promises her anything she wants even half his kingdom; an extravagant offer which he couldn’t have fulfilled as only the Roman authorities could divide the kingdom! She asks her Mother what she should ask for and not only does Herodias seek John’s execution without trial but horrifyingly asks for his head on a platter. This grisly act is the end of what would have been seen as a pagan feast. Here we see Herod not wishing to lose face in front of those present and persuaded by his wife order the execution of a man he regarded as a holy man.
The last verse tells us the disciples come and take his body and lay it in a tomb, an end of his earthly life which so much reflects the story of Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, who took the body of Jesus, performed the careful preparation for burial and placed it in his tomb.
FINAL PRAYER: APBA p.562
open our eyes to see your hand at work
in the splendour of creation
and in the beauty of human life.
Help us to cherish the grist that surround us,
to share our blessings with our sisters and brothers,
and to experience the joy of life in your presence;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.