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Friday – Fourth Week – OT2
Readings: Sir 47:2-11; Mk 6:14-29.
Reading 1 (Sir 47:2-11):
Like the choice fat of the sacred offerings,
so was David in Israel.
He made sport of lions as though they were kids,
and of bears, like lambs of the flock.
As a youth he slew the giant
and wiped out the people’s disgrace,
When his hand let fly the slingstone
that crushed the pride of Goliath.
Since he called upon the Most High God,
who gave strength to his right arm
To defeat the skilled warrior
and raise up the might of his people,
Therefore the women sang his praises,
and ascribed to him tens of thousands
and praised him when they blessed the Lord.
When he assumed the royal crown, he battled
and subdued the enemy on every side.
He destroyed the hostile Philistines
and shattered their power till our own day.
With his every deed he offered thanks
to God Most High, in words of praise.
With his whole being he loved his Maker
and daily had his praises sung;
He set singers before the altar and by their voices
he made sweet melodies,
He added beauty to the feasts
and solemnized the seasons of each year
So that when the Holy Name was praised,
before daybreak the sanctuary would resound.
The LORD forgave him his sins
and exalted his strength forever;
He conferred on him the rights of royalty
and established his throne in Israel.
Gospel (Mk 6:14-29):
King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread,
and people were saying,
“John the Baptist has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”
Others were saying, “He is Elijah”;
still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.”
But when Herod learned of it, he said,
“It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”
Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.
Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.
His own daughter came in and performed a dance
that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once on a platter
the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner
with orders to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter
and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
I. THEME: People need to be faithful to the truth.
To the people who have no faith in God, they don’t believe in the absolute truth. They think every truth is relative, it is only true in certain time or in a special occasion. To these people, they are ready to change their conception of truth for their success, convenience and benefit.
To the people who firmly believe in God, they believe in the absolute truth because it is beyond people. No matter if people know it or not, it is still existed. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews gave us an example of the absolute truth: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings” (Heb 13:8-9). To these people, success in this life is just temporal, and isn’t a guarantee for a future success. Therefore, to reach the ultimate goal of life, people can’t live according to time or occasion; but to the truth.
Today readings give us two different kinds of people according to their lifestyles. In the first reading, the author of Sirach gave us two exemplars, David and Solomon. Though they are sinners, they recognized the truth, repented and asked God for His forgiveness. God forgave their sins and continued to bless them. In the Gospel, Mark reported two opposite kinds of people. One kind, represented by king Herode, Herodia and Salome, didn’t want to live according to the truth; but to their pleasure, passion and others’ command. One kind, represented by John Baptist, always lived according to the truth at all costs, even to the point of accepting death.
1/ Reading I: David sang praise with all his heart, and he loved his Maker.
1.1/ The closed relationship between God and David: For a relationship to develop, there must be both directions. We can see how the relationship between God and David was developed through time, trials and sufferings.
(1) God blessed David: From the youth, God’s special love and protection were always with David. He saved him from lion’ mouth and bear’s claws when he was a shepherd. When king Saul couldn’t find anyone to fight against Goliath, a giant Philistine warrior, David volunteered to fight against him. God’s blessing helped him to kill Goliath with his sling and only one stone. Through the prophet Nathan, God selected him to be a king among his older brothers to succeed Saul. When David was on the throne, God helped him to wipe out his enemies on every side, and annihilated his adversaries the Philistines. With God’s help, David united the twelve tribes of the Israelites and reigned over them. David is considered the greatest king of Israel; and his reign, the most glorious one in Israel history.
(2) David recognized God’s deeply love for him: David was very sensitive of God’s love and did everything he could to thank and to glorify God, as the author of Sirach described: “In all that he did he gave thanks to the Holy One, the Most High, with ascriptions of glory; he sang praise with all his heart, and he loved his Maker. He placed singers before the altar, to make sweet melody with their voices. He gave beauty to the feasts, and arranged their times throughout the year, while they praised God’s holy name, and the sanctuary resounded from early morning.”
1.2/ David committed sins, but he repented and relied on God’s mercy: As a human being, David isn’t perfect. In a weak moment, David committed adultery with Bathsheba and she was pregnant. To avoid responsibility, David twice set up the opportunities for Bathsheba’s husband to be at home with her; but he refused to do so. Finally, David found a way to get rid of him by ordering a command to send Uriah to a hot battle without armies to back him up. Uriah was killed in that battle. Due to these two serious sins, God sent heavy punishments on him and his family: the deaths of his three sons; incest between brother and sister, between his son and his concubines; his son’s betrayal… But David didn’t commit blasphemy or loose his hope in God when he endured all these punishments. He only asked God to forgive his sins and to stop punishments on his family. These trials and sufferings helped him to recognize terrible results of sins and to confirm his love for God.
2/ Gospel: When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.
2.1/ Herode’s family: When one studies the background of Herode’s family, one can see the devil’s influence upon this family. Herode the Great had 5 wives (Cleopatra of Jerusalem, Doris, Mariamne of Hasmonean, Mariamne of Boethusian, and Malthake). He killed his three sons: Antipater, a son with Doris; Alexander and Aristobulus, by Mariamne of Hasmomean. Some jokely said, “it is safe to be Herode’s dog than to be his sons.” The incest happened when Herodias, Aristobulus’ daughter, married Philip, her uncle; and wanted to marry with Herode Antipas, Philip’s brother, as reported by Mark in today passage. Another incest happened when Salome, Herodias’ daughter wanted to marry Philip, Cleopatra’s son.
2.2/ Different lifestyles:
(1) King Herode Antipas: was influenced by his father’s immoral and wicked life; he didn’t respect the truth. He had sent soldiers to seize John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her. For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” His wavering attitude to the truth was described by Mark: “When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.”
An opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. When Herodias’ daughter 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 grant it.” He vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. The king immediately sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.
(2) Herodia and Salome: lived and witnessed against the truth. Herodia was angry with John Baptist because he prevented her to marry Herode Antipas. She tried to find a way to get rid of him. When the opportunity came, she wasn’t hesitated and ordered Salome, her daughter, to ask for his head on a platter.
(3) John Baptist: always lived and witnessed for the truth. He didn’t pay attention to material gains, fame or power; but he courageously lived a simple life and spent all of his time to fulfill his mission.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must learn and faithfully live according to the truth, because a wavering life shall not help us to reach our destiny.
– We have to pay a dearly price to live according to the truth; but only the truth can set us free and give us joy. The truth will help us to unite with God and all His faithful.