Saturday, July 30, 2016

At Work in Him

“It was the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and city all that you have heard. 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.”  Jeremiah 26:12-13

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.” Matthew 14:1-2


A Midrash on Genesis reads: "Weeds spring up and thrive; but to get wheat how much toil we must endure."

Jeremiah might not have been any more successful than John or Jesus in getting people to change their evil ways. However, his appeal did results in his life being spared.

Clearly, Herod did not listen to John’s message.  He allowed the weeds of selfishness to overtake his life. 

Our readings in Ordinary Time have brought us to the half-way point in Matthew’s Gospel.  We are at the stage in the narrative where Jesus has been trying to give away pearls of wisdom through the parables.  He has been preaching, healing and trying to reform the ways of the people around him.  He picked up on John’s message of change.  Repent, they both said, for the Kingdom of God is at hand (closer than you think). 

Despite this, the people reject Jesus at Nazareth.  Therefore, when we hear today that “Herod heard the reputation of Jesus,” it could be referring to both the track record Jesus has been establishing as teacher—preacher—healer AND the rejection Jesus experiences from his own neighbors.

Herod THINKS that he has John boxed up in prison where he can do no harm but Herod is wrong. In two ways.  First, John’s spirit lives on in his cousin Jesus.  That transference happened when a reluctant John baptized Jesus and the Spirit of God was heard proclaiming Jesus as His own.  That is why the mighty powers are at work in Jesus.  Second, Herod wrongly thinks Jesus is John reincarnate but Jesus picks up Johns work and brings it to a new, higher level. Wrong, wrong Herod.   

Doubling down on two wrongs, Herod seals his fate in the seventh circle of Hell by following through on the request to execute the Baptizer.  We, however, know the “Jesus-is-John” theme foreshadows the state-sponsored execution of Jesus when Herod orders John’s death.


Depending on which translation of the Bible you use, the words repent and repentance appear more than 100 times. 

How many different ways do we need this message explained and reinforced in order to internalize it? This message is there not just for our neighbors to change but also for us.  What weeds can you focus on removing today so that God’s plan can be more actively working in your life?

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