Dancing seductively before Herod or presenting the head of John the Baptist to her mother, Salome has appeared in many works of art, from Renaissance paintings to Richard Strauss's opera, Salome. Strauss's version adds extra vileness to her character; Salome lusts for the Baptist, has failed to seduce him, and gets him beheaded with personal malice. The opera also has Salome's sensational Dance with the Seven Veils. Reading the Gospel today, we see no veils and no prior conversation, yet we see that John has done his job as prophet; he has admonished Herod and pointed out evil -- in particular, the evil in Salome's mother. So Salome does her job as a daughter, and perhaps as an already corrupt woman. You'd think the girl would be saying "Oh, no, Mom -- that's too gross!" -- but in the Gospel we hear only that she does what her depraved mother wants her to.
Of course the Gospel's focus is Jesus; this narrative of John the Baptist's death gets told because even the perverse Herod identifies Jesus with the Baptist. In our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah is almost put to death because he has done his job as prophet: he has admonished the people and pointed out evil. These readings remind us that Jesus is Prophet, and that prophets, because they challenge the forces of evil in the world, are at risk. Jesus, we know, as he does His job, is headed towards His own death -- and our redemption.
My own jobs seem very little compared to the great work of Jeremiah and John the Baptist -- and Jesus -- but the Church teaches that my work can contribute to Jesus's work in this world today. So why be outdone by Salome? Let me do my job, whatever it is today, with the same lack of hesitation that pathetic girl shows in the Gospel.
And the Psalm for today reminds me of a job I can do (unlike exotic dancing!) and would like to do without any hesitation: "I will praise the name of God," and "I will glorify him in thanksgiving." Hey, yes, praising and thanking God is exactly the job my own dear mother would want me to do today.
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