4th Week, Friday, Feb 7th: Reflection & Liturgy

Ecclesiasticus 47:2-11 / Mark 6:14-29

Sirach eulogizes David: The Lord forgave him and exalted him.

At 16, Thomas Merton was orphaned. At 23, he found Christ. At 26, he put all he owned in a duffel bag and entered a Trappist monastery in Gethsemane, Kentucky. He remained there until he died in 1969. Mark Van Doren eulogized Merton in words something like this: “The best bottle of wine tipped over all at once and spilled. Catch it, save it, but nobody could.  
  Now, nothing’s left but the fragrance.” Sirach eulogized David in similar words in today’s reading. The most moving line of the eulogy is, “The Lord forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever.” (nab)
What would we like someone to say of us by way of a eulogy when we die? “Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards.” Soren Kierkegaard
Each of us has some shadows, some dark spots lurking in our lives. Though these belong to the past, yet they haunt our present, maybe because we have yet to come to terms with them and to be reconciled with what we did. Hence, we may limp and stagger in the present because of the shadows from the past.

In the gospel, we heard how king Herod was haunted with a shadow from the past. It was the shadow of John the Baptist whom he executed. Everything that happened around him had that shadow of John the Baptist. Even when he heard of Jesus, he immediately reacted by saying that it was John the Baptist whom he executed. But Jesus did not come to settle scores with Herod. Rather, Jesus came to save him from the shadows of the past. Problem was that Herod chose to live among the shadows of his past.

We may have a shadowy past, a past that is peppered with black spots. But Jesus comes to bring light, and that light gives life to the present and to scatter the shadows. Jesus came to show us God's love and mercy and forgiveness, so that we may start living again and walking in the light of God's love.
Friday of 4th Week – LITURGY


After we have heard in recent days the story of King David, Jesus Ben Sirach reinterprets for his time the personality of David: a valiant king whose power comes from God, a singer of psalms and an organizer of the liturgy, the covenant king to whom lasting kingship has been promised. With the death of the Baptist ends the life of the last prophet of God of the Old Testament, who, as the hinge between the Old and the New Testaments, had prepared the way for the Lord’s coming. He died as a suffering servant of God, a new Elijah, who stood up to kings and infamous queens. 

Opening Prayer
Lord, our God, John the Baptist spoke without fear to the high and the mighty, that they too, were bound by God’s laws. He risked his life for what is right and good. Let him inspire us too to let your word become flesh and blood in us by taking the risks of our faith and living as we believe. Let this be the way in which we prepare the fuller coming among us of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Sirach sings David’s praises, highlighting his virtues and remaining relatively silent about his failings, though he does say that God forgave David’s sins. There is no doubt about David’s military prowess, his praise of the Lord, his attention to the major feasts of his faith. These are aspects of his life that have immortalized him. There is a major difference between David and King Herod, a central figure in today’s Gospel. The story of Herod’s stepdaughter and her famous dance (known in the theatre as the “dance of the seven veils”) has been a theme in drama and reached the operatic stage in Richard Strauss’s opera Salome. Most of the characters in the now-famous story are unsavoury, but the figure of Herod merits our attention. He has John the Baptist imprisoned for criticizing Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife. One evening, in the midst of what must have been a drunken orgy, after his stepdaughter dances, he promises her whatever she might ask, even as much as half of his kingdom. After consulting her mother, she asks for the head of John the Baptist. The request is granted, much to Herod’s chagrin. John stood for principle, and it cost him his life. Today people are often more passionate about politics than they are about moral principle. This story is worthy of our reflection. Not that our lives equal it in drama. But because it highlights the importance of principle in conduct, something that cannot be put aside casually for personal reasons. 

Points to Ponder
David’s faith and accomplishment
David’s recognition of moral failure
The figures of Herod, Herodias, and their daughter
John the Baptist and principle

– Lord, give us great men and women, even great children, to inspire all of us how to live our faith consistently, we pray:
– Lord, you know how timid we are. Help us to take the Gospel of your Son Jesus, seriously by letting your Spirit give us the insight and courage of prophets, we pray:
– Lord, you see how harsh we often are. Let the gentleness and compassion of good persons give us warm and understanding hearts, we pray: 

Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God, these are only simple gifts, a piece of bread and a bit of wine. Accept them and give us instead your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the Spirit and his fire, change us, timid people into signs to everyone and all of your tenderness and mercy, your justice and your peace, that we may bring into our world the life and message of Jesus, our Lord. 

Prayer after Communion
God of our hope and future, your Spirit of wisdom and strength was alive in Jesus, your Son. Pour out the same Spirit on us too, that we may bear witness today to your faithfulness and love. And give us always people inspired by you, prophets like John the Baptist, to wake us up when we are self-satisfied and to inspire us to prepare the way for the full coming of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord. 

Like John the Baptist, we can and should show others the road to Christ and prepare the way for his full coming. This will happen only if we ourselves take his Gospel seriously, if the Lord becomes visible in us, his goodness, his compassion, his love. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.