Attending an event this past weekend, I reconnected with family and friends. We’d lost track of each other over the last several years. It was a sad gathering to celebrate the life of one suddenly taken. In the chatter, we updated each other. It was good to catch up with loved ones who’ve moved away or moved on with life’s growth.
There are undercurrents in every gathering. Beneath the surface, it is the flow of something else. Emotions can flow under the surface, setting the tone. Truth and lies also hide in the undercurrent. And after the last few years, there are undercurrents in all my interactions. It made me think of the scriptures said at the Mass on Friday, February 4, 2022. Those scriptures reminded us of two kings and gatherings.
2 And as the fat taken away from the flesh, so was David chosen from among the children of Israel.
3 He played with lions as with lambs: and with bears he did in like manner as with the lambs of the flock, in his youth.
4 Did not he kill the giant, and take away reproach from his people?
5 In lifting up his hand, with the stone in the sling he beat down the boasting of Goliath:
6 For he called upon the Lord the Almighty, and he gave strength in his right hand, to take away the mighty warrior, and to set up the horn of his nation.
7 So in ten thousand did he glorify him, and praised him in the blessings of the Lord, in offering to him a crown of glory:
8 For he destroyed the enemies on every side, and extirpated the Philistines the adversaries unto this day: he broke their horn for ever.
9 In all his works he gave thanks to the holy one, and to the most High, with words of glory.
10 With his whole heart he praised the Lord, and loved God that made him: and he gave him power against his enemies:
11 And he set singers before the altar, and by their voices he made sweet melody. [DRA]
The Gospel: Mark 6:14-292:
14 And king Herod heard, (for his name was made manifest,) and he said: John the Baptist is risen again from the dead, and therefore mighty works shew forth themselves in him.
15 And others said: It is Elias. But others said: It is a prophet, as one of the prophets.
16 Which Herod hearing, said: John whom I beheaded, he is risen again from the dead.
17 For Herod himself had sent and apprehended John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias the wife of Philip his brother, because he had married her.
18 For John said to Herod: It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.
19 Now Herodias laid snares for him: and was desirous to put him to death, and could not.
20 For Herod feared John, knowing him to be a just and holy man: and kept him, and when he heard him, did many things: and he heard him willingly.
21 And when a convenient day was come, Herod made a supper for his birthday, for the princes, and tribunes, and chief men of Galilee.
22 And when the daughter of the same Herodias had come in, and had danced, and pleased Herod, and them that were at table with him, the king said to the damsel: Ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it thee.
23 And he swore to her: Whatsoever thou shalt ask I will give thee, though it be the half of my kingdom.
24 Who when she was gone out, said to her mother, What shall I ask? But she said: The head of John the Baptist.
25 And when she was come in immediately with haste to the king, she asked, saying: I will that forthwith thou give me in a dish, the head of John the Baptist.
26 And the king was struck sad. Yet because of his oath, and because of them that were with him at table, he would not displease her:
27 But sending an executioner, he commanded that his head should be brought in a dish.
28 And he beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a dish: and gave it to the damsel, and the damsel gave it to her mother.
29 Which his disciples hearing came, and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.[DRA]
In Sirach (also called Ben Sira, depending on the translation)the author describes King David’s skill and faith in God. He praised and thanked God, defended God’s people, and brought them closer to the Lord. The undercurrent in David’s life was a man who loved God with all his heart. He ruled and protected the people with God’s love and strength.
In stark contrast, the gospel reading Mark describes the death of John the Baptist. At King Herod’s birthday banquet, the King was so enthralled with his wife’s daughter’s dance that he told her he would give her whatever she wished up to half his kingdom. She asked for the head of John the Baptist and he gave her what she asked.
In the homily, our priest pointed out the difference between the kings. King David had a heart for God and King Herod had a heart for himself. King David built up God’s people. He was not perfect, but King David loved God. King Herod tore down the chosen and loved himself.
The similarity between our world leaders and Herod is striking. After I got home on Saturday, I nursed a headache and inflammation. I wondered about the undercurrents from the virus crisis’ effect our gathering. Underneath re-connection and grief, I found the undercurrents of suspicion, division, and fear.
I could almost hear the thoughts rolling in my mind as people separated into small groups away from each other with heads bent to hear the whispers. My gut tightened as some said the same things to me. I watched a sibling turned their back on a sibling. Why? Because one made choices the other did not like. It broke my heart. The undercurrent rolled as most tried to figure out what side of the invisible line the others stood. In their eyes, I saw one emotion, FEAR. During the service, I wept and prayed that our family and friends would somehow get past the fear of each other.
I also thought of the undercurrents in Herod’s court. Fear must have permeated his palace. The Bible describes a banquet filled with selfishness, excess, and death. Our leaders have done the same. They have used fear while feasting on their selfishness, excess, and death. Like Herod, they have torn down their people.
Fear brings us step by step closer to death. If not of the body, then of the soul. It is why the evil one uses it constantly. It is why God states over and over, throughout the bible, “Fear Not!” “Do not be afraid.” God is life. In Revelation He offers invitation to the marriage feast of the Lamb:
7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
[Revelation 19:7-9 KJV]
God’s banquet is one of love for his people. It is time to choose between life and death, love or fear… God or king. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, as hard as this Gospel message is to read, we choose to follow you, no matter the consequences. Help us be brave in our words and actions and stand for you. Help us find leaders, like King David, that have a heart for you. John did not back down from calling Herod out on his lifestyle and sin. He continued to minister to Herod’s hardened heart from prison.2 Instill in us the courage needed to stand in faith, like King David and John the Baptist, to uphold your righteousness for those who cannot defend themselves. Thank you, Lord, for the promise of everlasting life. A life filled with your light and a table filled with your blessing. Glory and honor to you, the Lord God of Hosts and King of Kings. In Yeshua’s name, amen. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.
God has given us the light, let’s shine in the darkness,
Notes: Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. Yeshua means salvation.
I had some trouble finding a translation from the Catholic Bibles I could use here. Sirach or Ben Sira is found in only a few translations of the Bible. I wanted to use the readings from the New American Bible used in the Mass mentioned. But due to the language in the permissions I decided to use translations from the Public Domain. So the wording may different but the meaning is still there.
The Bibles used for scriptures in this post are:
- Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA) Public Domain
- New King James Version (NKJ) Public Domain