Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.
(Matthew 14:1-12)

Scripture Study

14:1–12 John the Baptist’s martyrdom is a narrative “flashback” on events of the past. Matthew’s account has a double purpose: (1) It marks a clear distinction between John and Jesus in light of popular rumors about their identity (14:2; 16:14). (2) It underscores the high cost of Christian discipleship (5:10–11; 10:39). The execution of John by governing authorities anticipates the fate of Jesus (17:12) and the early Christian martyrs (Rev 20:4).

14:1 Herod the tetrarch: Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who governed Galilee and Perea from 4 b.c. until a.d. 39.

14:4 It is not lawful: John publicly denounced the union of Herod Antipas and his mistress, Herodias. While the NT gives little background, extrabiblical history details how Antipas desired Herodias while she was married to his half-brother Herod Philip. Antipas and Herodias then abandoned their respective spouses in order to be united. The Mosaic Law, however, forbids the union of a man with his brother’s wife while the brother is still living (Lev 18:16; 20:21). Since Philip was yet living, John the Baptist spoke out against the union of Herod Antipas and Herodias and publicly disgraced them (Mk 6:19).

14:9 he commanded it: Herod succumbed to peer pressure by swearing an illicit oath (14:7) before his distinguished guests (14:9). Condemning an innocent man without trial, he stands in a stream of immorality historically linked with the Herodian dynasty.

Scripture Reflection

This Gospel begins as Jesus returns to his “native place.” When he returns home, he immediately goes to the temple and begins to teach the people. Many were amazed and astonished. After all, many of them had seen Jesus grow up. Yet here he was preaching and teaching! They asked one another: “Where did he get all of this wisdom? How is he able to perform such mighty deeds?” They knew he was a simple carpenter, like his father, Joseph. And they knew his mother and all his siblings. They had great difficulty comprehending all of this!

Rather than being proud of Jesus and his intelligence and wisdom, some of his neighbors and relatives took offense at him. I wonder: were they jealous of Jesus? Did they think that Jesus thought that he was better than they were? Or were they envious of him? By their words and actions, they scorned Jesus! And thus, he was not able to work any great deeds there. Their lack of faith was too deep!

Take a moment and “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” Imagine the emotions that must have raced through Jesus during this encounter. He was so happy to be home. Jesus loved his hometown. And he loved the people of the town. And yet, they could not accept who he had become. They wanted him to remain as he was when he lived among them. Were they jealous? Or were they intimidated by this side of Jesus? Would they not accept him as he was? Could they not love him as a neighbor and kinsman?

Do we ever shun or judge people who seem to be more than we think they should be? I assume we all do! At times, we have judged another before we are aware of judging them. At these moments, we have a choice: to continue judging them or to choose to let go of our judgment when we realize that we are judging the individual. The choice is always ours to make.

Today may we consciously and deliberately “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” If we do so, we may find that we are more peaceful, gracious and loving! We also may be more joyful and light-hearted! And we may receive more gifts than we have given!

– Kristine Anne Harpenau, OSB

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.