Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
When the death is a triumph
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Now Herod had arrested John, bound (him), and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, for John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people, for they regarded him as a prophet. But at a birthday celebration for Herod, the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests and delighted Herod so much that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests who were present, he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus. Mt 14,1-12
The death of John the Baptist, in its absurd drama, gives us an opportunity to meditate on the fact that the man of God has all the protections of the heaven for the time needed to
accomplish his mission, but when it ends, even a futile event, like the dance of this young girl, can be a sufficient reason to terminate his existence. It will be like this also for Jesus: by the end of his mission the events begin to quickly take place and the moment of the cross will fast arrive. A few years ago, the television has broadcast all over the world the culmination of the life of Pope John Paul II. Early in his papacy he seemed indestructible, but at some point in time the sand of his hourglass has started to flow more fast and eventually he passed away, leaving in our eyes the image of that gospel which the wind of the Holy Spirit leafed on his coffin in st. Peter Square. It was so for the grandpa Mario, for the grandma Rita, for the grandpa Renzo and the grandma Betta and the same will be for us when the Lord will think that our mission is over. These look like tragic events, but actually they are great ones, as it is the arrival of the relay race at the Olympics games, where, in the end, everyone feels and he is the winner, if in the road he has spent all the energy he had to spend. If the Lord gives us the grace to understand the life and the time which has been given to us in an eternal perspective, even the death becomes a triumph. And that head of John the Baptist which the girl finally delivered to her mother Herodias, becomes just a symbol of triumph, as it is the gold medal at the Olympic game.