Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
And to learn trust, faith.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice in the midst of trouble.
Help me to follow you in all of life,
To walk in the joy and freedom of the resurrection,
Indwelt and led by your Pentecost Spirit.
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Week 10 in Ordinary Time
This week our lectionary guide leads us into a dark chapter of the gospel narrative.
King Herod is fascinated by Jesus and John the Baptist, and has a small measure of healthy fear within him in his recognition that both of these messengers of God are holy men. However, John has been outspoken concerning Herod’s marriage to this king’s brother’s wife, and Herod is less than happy that a holy man would voice any opposition to his behavior. His wife, the queen Herodias, would like to see John put to death, but Herod’s fear of this righteous man forms a protective shield around the prophet.
While under arrest and in the royal custody of King Herod, John finds himself asked to speak to this king. We are told that even though Herod liked to listen to him, he would find himself only perplexed by what he heard. It seems that there are competing desires within Herod, and this king has little internal strength to discern the source and nature of his desires.
Evagrius, a spiritual guide who lived and wrote in the fourth century of the church, discerns that certain passions reside in the soul: “. . . some of these passions will darken our mind and obstruct our thinking. When caught in the web of such passions and desires, we are no longer able to recognize what leads us to life and God. Rather, what seems good is what we desire; what we want.” (The Praktikos &Other Chapters on Prayer, Cistercian Publications, 1981. 35)
As this brutal story unfolds in Mark’s gospel, we are able to recognize how Herod is caught in the dark web of his disordered desires and passions, a web whose hold will lead him finally to murder, in spite of his fondness for John and his fear of displeasing God.
While we may not find ourselves in this kind of situation, if we are honest we do find ourselves caught in certain webs of desire. We find ourselves attached to our possessions, our money, our reputation, our work, our way of doing church. And if we are aware, we notice how disturbed or protective we become when we fear we might lose them. Such attachment can even lead us to violence, even war. We too find Herod within ourselves.
Only God can finally free us from what is deeply imbedded within our soul. This freedom we may long for and fight against at the same time. But as we continue to follow and listen to Jesus, we grow in love for God and for our neighbor; we give of our time, our self, we give our money to those in need, and we hold more loosely to things. God becomes our center.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us
In the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Help me to be aware of how you come,
To be hospitable to your help,
And to your leading in the way of Jesus.
Season after Pentecost: Week 10 (in ordinary time)
- 7/9 Monday: Mark 6:14-16
- 7/10 Tuesday: Mark 6:17-29
- 7/11 Wednesday: Psalm 24
- 7/12 Thursday: 2 Samuel 6:1-5,12b-19
- 7/13 Friday: Ephesians 1:2-14
- 7/14 Saturday: Mark 6:14-16
- 7/15 Sunday: Mark 6:17-29