Saturday, August 02, 2014

Listen to the Voice

Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Now, therefore, reform your ways and your deeds; listen to the voice of the LORD your God, so that the LORD will repent of the evil with which he threatens you.  As for me, I am in your hands; do with me what you think good and right.  Jeremiah 26:13-14

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 14:11-12

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state,” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in Strength to Love, a sermon collection. “It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

What did Jeremiah and John the Baptist do that so threatened the “powers that be” that they faced the death penalty?  In essence, they proclaimed the good news in words that would be repeated by Jesus.  Repent.  Reform your ways.  Change your lifestyle.  Look elsewhere when seeking happiness.

In Jeremiah’s case, cooler heads prevailed. In John’s, Herod was not strong enough to resist the pressure of expectations put upon him by the queen, her daughter and those assembled at the party.

In the notes, we learn of some subtle differences between how Mark and Matthew portrayed this story.  In Mark’s account, Herod reveres John as a holy man and the desire to kill him is attributed to Herodias. (Mk 6:19, 20), whereas here that desire is Herod’s from the beginning.  However, under the law of the day, Herod’s union with Herodias was prohibited.  She was the wife of his half-brother.  Herod ultimately imprisoned and then executed John because he feared that the Baptist’s influence over the people might enable him to lead a rebellion.  The role of the birthday party “request” gives the story a little more “Peyton Place” character but this was purely motivated by Herod’s adultery and lust for political power. 

“When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”  Jesus knew that this was a prelude to his death as well.

Are you prepared to speak truth to power? 

In a recent article, National Geographic magazine asked why are people still hungry in the richest nation in the world?  Millions of working Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  The publication sent three photographers to explore hunger in three very different parts of the United States, each giving different faces to the same statistic: One-sixth of Americans don’t have enough food to eat.

We should be distressed reading this.  We can all share our food and contributions with churches and food banks.  In addition, we should tell our leaders that this situation is not acceptable.  Our policies and practices should make sure that the poor have a standard of living that assures they have the basic needs met.  After all, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness and the next meal for the poor.  

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