“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”

Yesterday we celebrated the Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist which gives us another chance to review the story of John’s death (Mk 6:17-29).  The now familiar story tells us of John’s imprisonment by Herod, the birthday party in which Salome’s dance gives Herodias the chance to exact revenge on John, Herod’s capitulation to Salome’s/Herodias’s request, and the removal and burial of John’s body by his disciples.  Herod’s promise to Salome (at top) contrasts in an interesting way with a similar promise from Jesus: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you” (Jn 16:23).  Herod, as tetrarch, had substantial power, but did not know how to use it.  He did not ask for or seek divine guidance in the course of his rule, and certainly did not do so in this instance of boastfulness.  Pride, a capital sin, took over for Herod so that instead of doing the right thing, he did the thing that he thought would save his reputation.  Now he goes down in perpetual infamy as the man who killed the one of whom Jesus said: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11).  Conversely, our Father in Heaven promises to grant only those things asked in Jesus’ name.  Nothing asked of God in such a manner can ever be legitimately done if it does not comport to Jesus’ teaching.  We should always be mindful of this in prayers of petition.  A helpful preface to any such supplication is: “If it is your will, Lord, grant me…”  Thus we always seek to conform to what God wants of us.  Herod, on his own authority, dealt death.  God, on His own authority, gives life.

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