Friday, February 3, 2012

Meditation on Mark 6:14-29

Recently, I have struggled to grasp the message hidden in the Gospel readings for each day. I read them, but they wash over me and do not seem to penetrate. I know that each day's readings are Jesus, speaking directly to me about my current situation, but I have struggled to unlock the message.  I decided to try something different with today's Gospel reading, and I share it with you now because I found that this helped me tremendously in figuring out what message the Lord has for me today.

To set the stage, Herod is the King of Judea.  He rules it with an iron fist.  Herod divorced his first wife in order to marry his current wife, Herodias. Herodias had also divorced her first husband in order to marry Herod. This meant their marriage was illegal in God's eyes, and John the Baptist did not hesitate to tell Herod so.  Herodias was infuriated that John the Baptist would dare to tell her that she was sinning, but although Herod threw John the Baptist in prison, he knew in his heart that John was right and so he wouldn't let Herodias kill him.  Then came Herod's birthday party.  A lot of important people were invited to that party, and to impress them all, Herod encouraged his step-daughter, Salome, to dance for them.  The girl did as her step-father asked and all the guests were pleased by it.  Herod, without thinking, rewarded Salome by promising her anything she wanted.  Salome asked her mother for advice on what to request.  Her mother told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist.  Herod reluctantly complied, feeling that he would look weak and would lose honor if he refused the request in front of all these important people.  Months go by and Herod starts hearing rumors about a man who can heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead.  The people who speak of this man call him by many names and say many things about him, but Herod believes it is John the Baptist, raised from the dead.

Now that you know the basic story line, here is my meditation on it:

I married Pride, and she brought with her a daughter named Avarice. Truth came to me and told me that I was wrong to marry Pride, that Pride was not for me, but I did not want to believe Truth.  I took Truth and I locked him away, but even though Truth's words troubled me and stirred my conscience, I liked to hear him speak to me and so I often listened to it.  Pride hated Truth, despised him because he told me to put her away, to let go of her, that she was not for me. So Pride plotted against Truth.  To celebrate my birthday, I threw a party and invited many to come.  I put my step-daughter, Avarice, on display and she dazzled my guests.  To reward Avarice, I offered her any of the choicest tidbits she liked.  Pride advised Avarice not to settle for anything less than the death of Truth, and Avarice followed Pride's advice and so demanded this of me: to bring proof that I had killed Truth. I did not want to do this, but Pride reminded me that people would think less of me if I did not give Avarice what she requested, told me that people would think that Truth was more powerful than I if I did not do as Avarice asked.  So I went down to the place where I kept Truth locked away, and I killed him, chopping off his head and delivering it to Avarice.  Part of me felt relief, relief that there was no one left to accuse me of wrong doing, no one left to tell me that I needed to let go of Pride.  Part of me grieved for the loss of the only person I could truly call friend, the one person who was not afraid to tell me what I needed to hear rather than what I wanted to hear.

Months passed by, and I tried to forget about Truth, but reminders were all around me.  I began to hear rumors about a man who healed the sick, a man who cast out demons, a man who spoke as if he were God, a man who raised the dead.  The rumors called this man by many names, said many things about him, but I knew at once who this man was.  I knew it was Truth, raised from the dead. I knew then what I had known all along, that Truth cannot be killed.  Pride tried to convince me that it could not be Truth.  Pride reminded me of the head I brought to Avarice that night so long ago, but I knew better.  The voice of Truth was something I had been living with for months now.  It had not gone away with that death, it had only grown stronger.

Pride hates Truth.  This is true in every time and every generation.  Pride is the reason that we have so much trouble taking constructive criticism and listening when someone tells us we are going down the wrong path.  Pride, and her daughter Avarice, are dangerous enemies.  The only defense we have against these two is Gratitude and her daughter, Humility.  Gratitude recognizes that we are not the source, but the fortunate recipient, of all the good things that happen in our lives.  Gratitude opens our eyes and our hearts to receive Truth.  Humility recognizes that God is the source of all our talents and gifts, and so gives credit where it is due.  We must wed ourselves not to Pride, but to Gratitude.  Gratitude welcomes Truth with open arms, and Humility dances with Joy in the presence of Truth.  If you wish to seek Truth, first embrace Gratitude.  Humility will follow, and Truth will then set you free of the chains which Pride and Avarice wish you to wear.

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