“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”― Theodore Roosevelt: (1858 – 1919: Twenty-sixth President of the United States, and a leader of the Republican Party and of the Progressive Movement)
Gospel Text: (MT 14:1-12)
Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”
Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.
A question I did have upon reading these verses was just why Herod was bothered by Jesus. What had he heard which threatened him and his little kingdom. In the previous chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has been relating and explaining various parables about a “kingdom” which is like a sower who sows seeds, like a growing mustard seed, like a treasure or pearl found or a fishing net resulting in some fish saved and others thrown away. Matthew follows these parables with Herod’s feeling his kingdom, his power, his identity being diminished. So Herod, in Matthew’s arrangement of things, begins to work toward his participation in getting rid of Jesus just as he got rid of the annoyance of John. I would suggest our reading the previous chapter’s parables to see what of our little kingdoms is threatened by their meaning. It is a prayerful reflection to become aware of how Jesus’ teachings can annoy us and we can have the same reaction as Herod, “Get rid of all that stuff! I am my own kingdom! I don’t want to be reminded who God says I am! I will decide! I will hear who others tell me I am!”