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BETTER TO HAVE GOD ON YOUR SIDE THAN BE RICH

Father Francis's picture
Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Jer. 26:11-16, 24 & Mt. 14:1-12

Sometimes nothing seems quite right in this world. Not only do the rich become richer and the poor get poorer, but the powerful become more powerful and the weak get weaker. Evil appears to triumph and good is defeated.

Jeremiah was a good man, dedicated to God and to His people. Through his preaching He was trying to call especially the rich and powerful of his time back to the Lord through repentance. He was doing good for them but their response was to persecute him - and eventually exile him from his homeland. John the Baptist tried in vain to turn the rich and powerful King Herod from his evil ways. His efforts cost him his head. And what about Jesus? He did good throughout His entire life, only to be crucified as a criminal.

It is not surprising that we come to the conclusion that the poor person has a hard time in our world. The weak, without political or social influence, will never receive preferential treatment as do the powerful figures of our times.

God looks at things differently and we must embrace His values. Let’s put it this way … would you rather be Jeremiah or the people who persecuted him? Would you rather be John the Baptist or King Herod who saw to his murder? Would you rather be Jesus or the religious officials who plotted His death? Is it not better to be poor rather than rich and have God on our side? To be weak rather than powerful and have God on our side? And is it not better to be like Jesus than anything else in the world?

In the Gospel today we are told about John the Baptist's death. When Herod heard the reports about Jesus, he was sure that it was really John, whom he had executed, come back from the dead. That's how deep an impression John's life, teaching and work had made on him. This is quite a testimony to the power of John's life!

The grisly account has all the ingredients of a present-day X rated film! It features adultery, incest, an evil oath and a grotesque murder committed as a gesture of appreciation for sensual entertainment, all witnessed by the party guests who acquiesced. They knew well that Herod and Herodias were living in adultery; the oath given by Herod was completely out of order; the call for the execution of an untried, innocent and holy man under that oath utterly wrong. In calling for John's head, Herod chose murder rather than loss of face before his guests. Only John had stood up for what was right and he paid the price.

What effect should this account have on us today? We can ask ourselves how we would have reacted if we had been one of the guests. Would we have sat silent while evil unfolded around us, or would we have dared to stand before the grandiose gathering to call for a halt to the proceedings? How do we react when we witness wrongs in the world around us? Are we willing to stand up and be counted, or do we prefer a quiet life? We are called through our Baptism to live prophetic lives, proclaiming the Good News, to repent and to turn away from sin. It is easy today to be lulled into a false sense of acceptance, dulling our minds to the sense of sin. We can be certain that if John were around today he would still be raising his voice in protest against all evil and immoral behaviour, and the laws and attitudes that allow it. Let his clarion cry from the past awaken us to our prophetic calling.

Lord Jesus, may Your Holy Spirit give us the strength to be like John the Baptist, living upright lives, prophets in our time, speaking up for the truth and against all that You have told us is wrong.

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