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Liturgical day: Saturday 17th in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (Jer 26:11-16.24): The priests and prophets said to the princes and to all the people, «This man deserves death; he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears».

Jeremiah gave this answer to the princes and all the people: «It was the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and city all that you have heard. Now, therefore, reform your ways and your deeds; listen to the voice of the Lord your God, so that the Lord will repent of the evil with which he threatens you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me what you think good and right. But mark well: if you put me to death, it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves, on this city and its citizens. For in truth it was the Lord who sent me to you, to speak all these things for you to hear».

Thereupon the princes and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, «This man does not deserve death; it is in the name of the Lord, our God, that he speaks to us». So Ahikam, son of Shaphan, protected Jeremiah, so that he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.
Responsorial Psalm: 68
R/. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Rescue me out of the mire; may I not sink!; may I be rescued from my foes, and from the watery depths. Let not the flood-waters overwhelm me, nor the abyss swallow me up, nor the pit close its mouth over me.

But I am afflicted and in pain; let your saving help, o God, protect me. I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.

«See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not».
Versicle before the Gospel (Mt 5:10): Alleluia. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Alleluia.

Gospel text (Mt 14,1-12): On one occasion the news about Jesus reached King Herod. And he said to his servants, «This man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him».

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison be-cause of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to him, «It is not right for you to have her as wife». Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced in the midst of the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, «Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a dish». The king was very displeased, but because he had made this promise under oath in the presence of the guests, he ordered it to be given her. So he had John beheaded in prison and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother. Then John's disciples came to take his body and bury it. And they went to bring the news to Jesus.

«The news about Jesus reached King Herod»

Fr. Joan Pere PULIDO i Gutiérrez
(Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Spain)

Today, our liturgy proposes us to contemplate an injustice: the beheading of St. John the Baptist; and, at the same time, to discover in God's Word the need of a clear and concrete testimony of our faith to fill out the world with hope.

I invite you to center our consideration in the person of Herod, the tetrarch. In fact, it is a counter-testimony for us, but it will help us to emphasize some interesting aspects, important enough for our testimony of faith amid the world. «The news about Jesus reached King Herod» (Mt 14:1). This assertion underlines an apparently correct, but not too sincere, attitude. It is the same kind of reality we can today find in many persons and, perhaps, even in ourselves. There are many who have heard of Jesus, but, who is He actually?, what kind of personal implication can we find in him?

First of all, we must give the correct answer; Herod's reply is but vague information: «This man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead» (Mt 14:2). Most probably you will be missing here Peter's reply to Jesus' question: «He said to them, ‘but who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’» (Mt 16:15-16). And this assertion does not leave any room for fear or indifference but it rather gives way to a testimony based in the Gospel of hope. This is how His Holiness Saint John Paul II defined it in his apostolic Exhortation The Church in Europe: «Therefore, in union with the whole Church, I invite my brothers and my sisters in faith constantly to be open in trust to Christ and to allow themselves to be renewed by him, proclaiming to all people of good will in the power of peace and love that whoever encounters the Lord comes to know the Truth, discovers the Life, and finds the Way leading to it».

Today, Saturday, let the Mother of God, the Mother of hope, help us to really discover Jesus and to bear witness of him to our brethren.