Reflection on Mark 6.14-29

Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.

One of the worst phrases we can ever utter is: I can never forgive. This notion of the ‘unforgiveable’ permeates so much of our daily lives. We hear it reported in the media, it provides the central plot line for much of the fiction we see, hear or read, and it dominates the way some of us live out our daily lives. Of course, people do inhumane and spiteful things to each other. When such things occur we do feel a sense of profound anger at the cruelty some people can inflict upon others, and particularly upon those who are weaker than themselves. But, no matter how dreadful the action of the wrongdoer, Jesus says: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. In another moment in the gospel narrative there is this exchange between Jesus and Peter: Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Jesus’ response to Peter’s question is significant because the phrase seventy-seven times was linguistic code for ‘times without number’.

Jesus’ command to forgive and love are not just words. They are demonstrated in all his words and actions. He touched the untouchable, he dined with the sinner, he welcomed the persecutor and he forgave those who nailed him to the cross. Forgiveness is not easy, and our nature is not divine, but it is the ideal towards which we are called to strive.

In today’s reading we see the consequence of Herodias’ anger at John the Baptist. As a result of his preaching the Jewish law, he is imprisoned and then, through subterfuge, he is brutally executed. This terrible action is routed in an inability to forgive on the part of Herodias, and Herod’s failure to stand up for what is right.

Yesterday we turned our focus from the crib to the cross. Today we are being invited to expunge ourselves of one of the most evil aspects of human nature, that of unquenchable anger. We get angry at so many petty things. We seethe as we see and hear people following different lifestyles. We become resentful at those who lives appear to be more successful and fulfilled than our own. So quickly we adopt the nature of Herodias, turning our backs on the nature of Christ.

Let us pray that we might strive to follow Jesus’ commandments to forgive and love. Let us pray that we might remove the filters that cause us to see others in a perpetually negative light. Let us pray that we might play our part in bringing about the new earth in which God’s way of living can and should prevail.