Seventh Sunday after Pentecost [b] July 11, 2021
14King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
In the Name of Jesus.
We hear the conversation of our world. There is another conversation we need to hear.
The conversation of our world? Power is praised and Natural Law is rejected.
What is Natural Law? It’s based on what is good and beneficial for humanity. Natural Law gives us the protection of human life, including the life of the most vulnerable. Natural Law speaks of what is healthy and beneficial for humans—and not just individuals, but of human society.
So it speaks of not just the protection of human life, but also the procreation of human life. That is, it gives us respect for following generations. So it gives us the concern that babies are protected, and this means that mothers with child and children in the womb are honored.
Natural Law gives us the concern that private property is upheld, for it is good for a person to be able to build a house for the safety of family. And good to be able to engage in agriculture and business to supply the needs of the family without fear of thievery or confiscation.
In short, Natural Law gives us the appreciation for what families need for safety and health in order to bring forth the next generation, and this means that the marriage of man and woman, the institution of family, the protection of home and property and wealth, the respect for the neighbor’s reputation and property is upheld and extolled.
It doesn’t take much, then, for the Christian to see that Natural Law is really nothing other than the Ten Commandments.
The conversation of our world—in this conversation we see Natural Law disparaged.
In our world’s conversation, the marriage of man and woman is twisted and perverted into things which should not even be said to children. The weak and vulnerable are in jeopardy. The Church is told to have no voice and, in some places, even persecuted. In Canada, over twenty churches have been burned to the ground in the last month, and the head of the British Colombia Civil Leaders Association tweeted out, “Burn it all down.”
There’s another conversation for our families to hear.
When King Herod executed the prophet John the Baptist, there was another voice for the Church to hear, other than the voice of the sinful world.
They heard the voice of the sinful world. That was the voice of Herod. King Herod was an open and unrepentant adulterer. He had over ten wives, including taking his brother’s wife. His respect for the institution of the marriage of man and woman rivals what we see in our world today. King Herod was also an open and unrepentant murderer. He had his own two sons strangled. Herod’s father Herod the Great had even murdered all the baby boys of Bethlehem when Jesus was born.
So when Herod murdered John the Baptist, the Church heard the voice of the world loud and clear. It was Herod killing the weak and vulnerable, including the Prophet John. Mark 6:29:
And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
They heard the voice of the sinful world. But then they heard the other conversation. The conversation in Heaven.
Because, as you let a body down into the ground, you turn to Scripture and you hear the voice of God the Father who created this body, and of God the Son who with his blood redeemed this body, and God the Holy Spirit who in Baptism sanctified this body, and, hearing the words of life, you commend the Christian to the eternal care of the God of all life.
For John the Baptist, when he was killed, Jesus had, of course, not yet died on the cross. But having baptized Jesus some thirty years before, John the Baptist had already proclaimed Jesus to be the Lamb of God who is taking away the sin of the world. And John the Baptist had seen the Holy Spirit come down upon Jesus and he had heard the Father in Heaven say “You are my beloved Son in whom I am fully pleased.” [Mark 1:11]
So those disciples who let the body of John down into the ground, in the midst of death, they heard the conversation of Heaven.
While the conversation of our world is one of seeking power, of controlling people, of depreciating family and the things of Natural Law—it is, that is, a conversation of power and death—the conversation of Heaven is one of giving gifts to people, of upholding families and protecting life—it is, that is, a conversation of giving one’s life as gift in service of neighbor and upholding families and protecting life.
Those laying John’s body into the tomb were given to know, then, of the deliberations of the heavenly council. This is the conversation the Apostle Paul later reveals to the Church in his letter to the Church in Ephesus. This is the heavenly council where God the Father has chosen us in Christ from even before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:3:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
In this conversation of the heavenly courtroom, we are declared holy and blameless by no worthiness of our own, but because God the Father in love makes a decree. He predestined us for adoption through his Son Jesus Christ, and this was not according to any decision we made or will make, but according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in his beloved Son. [Ephesians 1:6]
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have had this conversation since the foundation of the world.
Throughout the generations, the angels and archangels have witnessed this conversation. It has been revealed to the prophets, and the prophets have been sent forth to reveal it to sinners whom God loves and, in his grace, predestined to life.
In our own generation, as in all generations following the cross, it is now delivered to us in the preaching of the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, so that we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. [Ephesians 1:13]
Are we a little fearful?
Seeing the diseased conversation of our world, seeing children sometimes taught a most unhealthy view of life, seeing marriage deformed into something unholy, seeing churches burned down in Canada and the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world—seeing the world’s conversation, are we fearful?
Then we hear our Lord’s conversation. The conversation of life, of the gifts of creation and the institution of marriage and family, the conversation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in Heaven, revealed to us on Earth in the Gospel. And fear is chased away by faith. For in him, in Jesus, who makes us children of his Father, and who sends forth to us the Holy Spirit in the Word of Gospel—in Jesus, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of all our sins, according to the riches of his grace.
Do we want to hear the conversation of Heaven, the conversation of life? It is this: Your sin is forgiven, your life is atoned for by the holy Blood; this is the Gospel of your salvation, so that you have faith in him, for in Baptism he has sealed you with the promised Holy Spirit.
In the Name of Jesus.