I am working in Switzerland this summer, and today is the day when the Swiss celebrate their independence from the Habsburg in 1291. It is the Swiss national holiday. It is customary for inhabitants of every village to sit around a large bonfire and watch the fireworks. Children carry with them candle-lit lanterns and walk through the village. Food, drinks, and traditional music keep everyone merry. This celebration reminds me of today’s first reading. We read about the Day of Atonement, a special day of celebration. The trumpet resounds to remind the people of the “liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.” It is a time when all people shall return home to their roots and family. It is a time of fasting and forgiving. In today’s society, we tend to celebrate holidays by gathering around to eat and drink together. These readings remind me that I should take the time to gather with family and friends and celebrate their and God’s presence in our lives.
Matthew’s gospel tells the story of John the Baptist’s beheading. The reasons for this barbaric action appear outlandish. John the Baptist disapproved of Herod’s divorce from his wife and unlawfully taking his brother’s wife. John the Baptist did not change his message to accommodate Herod, but rather he was willing to be imprisoned for being true to God’s word. A drunken Herod ordered to have John the Baptist beheaded because he promised to give Herodias’ daughter anything she wanted. Herod was weak. He succumbed to temptation. He became a vehicle for vengeance. His weaknesses led to the death of a pious man. It is easy for us to judge, but how often have we succumbed to our weaknesses?
Today, I pray that God will give me strength to work on my weaknesses.