Herod was the puppet king installed by Rome. He was not even a Jew, so he is not the real king of the Jews. When he told the daughter of Herodias ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it. This resounds with what Jesus said in John ask anything you wish and it will be given to you. Jesus could say that because he is God. With Herod, it was an empty boast because he did not even own the kingdom! And when the daughter of Herodias asks for the head of John the Baptist, Herod gave it to her even if he did not want to. We see then the personality of Herod. He is someone who has power and authority, but cannot do anything that he wants. Instead, he does what other people want. This is a sad life because he lives his life trying to please everyone.
Contrast this to John the Baptist who had no authority or power. He lived in the desert and ate locust and wild honey. Yet, he was free to speak what the Lord wanted him to say. John the Baptist shows what true freedom is. It is not in human authority or power. But it is in living the life God wants us to live.
The First Reading shows us what God expects of Jeremiah: get ready, stand up and tell the people everything he commands him. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. By virtue of our baptism, we are called to be prophets of God. We are to get ready to stand and speak what God commands us. When we do, we will be hated, we will be slandered, we will suffer, just as John the Baptist did. For some, they may even have to give up their lives.
This is the lot of those whom God commands to speak his word. Yet, when this happens, we are not to be afraid because God assures us despite what people do, they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you to deliver you. When we do what God wants, we will suffer. But God has promised to be with us in all the sufferings, not only to be with us but to deliver us, to lead us through the sufferings.
While condemning injustice and evil is commendable, we need to know that injustice and evil must be seen through God’s eyes. People today have used the fight for injustice as a license to loot and destroy. Many today call what is good, evil and what is evil, good. Justice is achieved only when it is based on God’s Truth and something is evil or good when God says so. We do not define what is just. Good and evil is not legislated or determined by popular vote. God’s Truth defines what is good and evil.
When confronted with situations that force us to decide, it is normal to be afraid. Which is why in the First Reading, God tells Jeremiah, do not break down before them. We do not know how we will react. We can only pray that when the situation arises, we will not break down and instead, be faithful to God.
Lord, when I am confronted with this decision on obeying you or people, let me have the courage to trust you. Let me take refuge in you so I will not be put to shame. Deliver me, rescue me, hear me and save me. For you are my hope, my trust. Rescue me from the hands of the wicked, defend me and lead me through to victory.