February 4, 2022
by Edward Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 327

Sirach 47:2-11
Psalm 18:31, 47 and 50, 51
Mark 6:14-29

Praying Ordinary Time


Today’s readings provide a tale of two kings.  Their examples have much to offer us as we approach the coming year. 

In this part of the Church year, we read much about King David.  Matthew’s gospel puts King David in the genealogy of our Lord, and Luke’s gospel emphasizes that our Lord was born in Bethlehem, the City of David, a fact announced by the angelic herald. 

The first reading from Sirach exalts David for his skill and acumen as a warrior king, features complemented by those of a gentler nature, including his support for music, art, and the liturgical customs of worship in the temple.  His deep and abiding faith and love for God supported both of these dimensions of his life.  We also know David as a man sometimes drawn toward sin, who like us needed his sins to be forgiven.  We might note that even as David’s virtuous life is praised, it is God who is praised for his mercy, forgiveness, and love in dealing with him and the rest of God’s people.    

Today’s gospel presents another kingly example for us to consider. Sadly, Herod is not an example of heroic virtue.  He showed himself to be foolish, vain, and easily manipulated.  He lost his way. Instead of seeking the Lord and trying to find the path of righteousness, he lived in fear and remorse, perhaps numbed by the trappings of his earthly power. When he heard about Jesus, all he could think about was his own past sin and imagine the coming retribution.

My heart aches for Herod. Like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, he is haunted by the guilt of murder.  He knew that John the Baptist was an innocent man and a prophet of God, but he chose to kill him anyway.  Herod knew enough about God to fear His justice.  But he did not know God well enough to understand that His mercy endures forever and His forgiveness is offered to a repentant heart. Herod could not grasp that grave sin – even murder – could be forgiven, and so he was forced to live in fear of impending doom and without the hope of salvation.   

We should be mindful of these two examples as we struggle with our failures and sins.  If we choose Herod’s path, dwelling only on our failures and faults, we neglect the hope and joy of the salvation that is offered to us.  Christ died to save sinners like us.  He did this while we were yet sinners, rather than waiting until we manifested heroic virtues. Let us choose instead to follow David’s path, which relies wholly upon the goodness and mercy of our God.  How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?  Thanks be to God.

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