From BIRTHday to DEATHday – Saturday, 17th week in ordinary time – Matthew 14: 1-12

This has got to be a birthday party you want to forget about. There was no cake cut but a head chopped. What began as a ‘birth’ day ended as a ‘death’ day. St Matthew is borrowing this narrative from the text of St. Mark which was written a couple of years earlier and was already in circulation. The difference in the texts is that St Matthew cuts to the chase leaving out the details of the drama and simply comes to the point. 

Even though Chapter 13:54 to the end of chapter 17 deals with the ‘acceptance of Jesus by his disciples’ it begins with his rejection by his own people in Nazareth and is followed by this narrative which seems to be the reason for Jesus to begin his journey to die for us. The death of one martyr is the trigger for the Son of God to lay down his life. In both the death of John and Jesus the similarities are not lost on the reader.

John and Jesus are both hauled before men in charge of leadership, (Pilate and Herod Antipas) who were not really convinced that they should be put to death. Both men were pushed to a bad decision by people who would ‘profit’ from such a death. Herodias would have got rid of the voice of conscience that condemned her adulterous and incestuous union to Herod and Caiaphas and gang would have got rid of what they saw as a religious rabble rouser who could set off a very edgy Roman army. Both men gave succumbed when they executed the death warrant; Herod to the lust of the flesh and Pilate to the lust of power. Both were edged on by public perception; Herod was worried about his oath before his guests and Pilate was worried about his loyalty to Caesar.

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