1st Reading: Jer 26:11–16, 24
Then the priests and the prophets said to the leaders of the people: “This man must die for he has spoken against the city as you have heard with your own ears!”
Jeremiah replied, “I have been sent by Yahweh to prophesy against this House and this city all that you have heard. Hence, reform your ways and your deeds and obey Yahweh your God that he may change his mind and not bring upon you the destruction he had intended.
“As for me I am in your hands; do with me whatever you consider just and right. But know that I am innocent and if you take my life you commit a crime that is a curse on yourselves, on the city and the people. In truth it was Yahweh who sent me to say all that I said in your hearing.”
Then the leaders, backed by the people, said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve death; he spoke to us in the Name of Yahweh.”
As for Jeremiah he was befriended by Ahikam, son of Shaphan, and was not handed over to those who wanted him put to death.
Gospel: Matthew 14:1-12
On one occasion the news about Jesus reached King Herod. And he said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to him, “It is not right for you to have her as wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people who regarded John as a prophet.
On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced in the midst of the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a dish.”
The king was very displeased, but because he had made this promise under oath in the presence of the guests, he ordered it to be given her. So he had John beheaded in prison and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.
Then John’s disciples came to take his body and bury it. And they went to bring the news to Jesus.
Herod was a weak man, but all the more cruel for that. Rather than face his own falsity he killed the man who pointed it out to him. Still, inside every bad conscience there is a scrap of good conscience.
Otherwise we would not suffer from bad conscience. To know a bad conscience as bad is surely good. Herod died in exile from his kingdom in the company of Herodias. They had ruined each other’s lives.
No one knows if their bad consciences grew still worse, ruining each other to the very end. Who cares? We all do because, we will all be exiled form our kingdom sooner or later—our power over others, our power to make decisions, even our power over many aspects of our own lives—but the drama of conscience will not end; it will continue to our last breath.
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