CYCLE I: HOMILY FOR FRIDAY OF THE 4TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: MESSENGER OF TRUTH
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
HOMILY: Mk 6:14–29
King Herod heard about it, 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. She 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. Herodias’s 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?” She 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.
When Jesus was born, Israel was ruled by King Herod the Great. When he died, his kingdom was divided among his three sons. Herod Antipas was one of his sons who became the ruler of Galilee and Perea. He is also known as Herod the Tetrarch, which means he rules a quarter of the entire territory. He was married to a Nabatean princess. But he divorced her in order to have Herodias as his wife. Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus, another son of Herod the Great. She was married to her own uncle, Philip, who was also the son of Herod the Great. In short, Herod Antipas is taking as wife his own niece and the wife of his brother. This is clearly a direct violation of Jewish law.
John the Baptist strongly denounced this incestuous and highly immoral relationship. This public denunciation greatly offended Herod, but he cannot do anything because he respected and feared John, being so popular with the people. The most he could do was to arrest him upon the instigation of Herodias. But even when John was in prison, Herod loved to listen to him, though he was much perplexed by his preaching. It was Herodias, however, who really wanted to get rid of John. The Gospel today tells us how she successfully managed to have John beheaded in prison.
John is the precursor of Jesus in announcing His coming. But he is also the precursor of Jesus in death, that is, by giving up his life for God’s kingdom. He, and so many others were killed for being faithful to the truth. They never compromised the truth of the Gospel. That truth severely hurts and infuriates God’s enemies. To silence and suppress the truth, the messengers have to be eliminated, by hook or by crook. But the more messengers are killed, the more rapidly Christians grow in number. Hence, the early Christian writer, Tertullian, said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”
The world we now live in is full of conflicts and divisions. As long as lies and deceptions rule, there can never be peace and harmony in the world. What can truly unite us is the truth. As followers of Christ, we are called to be messengers of the truth. We have to defend and fight for the truth. This poses great risks for us, but if we do not speak up, who will?
It is said that for evil to triumph, what is needed only is for good men to keep quiet and do nothing. Hence, Pope St. John Paul II reminds us: “If you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, defend life. If you want life, embrace the truth – the truth revealed by God.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches