Lv 25:1,8-17; Ps 67:2-8; Mt 14:1-12
Only if the Lord’s face shines upon us will his ways be known upon the earth. All the blessings of the earth come from the hand of a loving Creator who has blessed us so that all the ends of the earth fear him. All the nations will be glad and exult because the Lord who made heaven and earth rules the peoples in equity. Indeed, if he is not Lord of All he is not Lord at all! His reign is our salvation! From Mount Sinai the Lord commanded Moses and all the people to celebrate a year of jubilee. “Do not deal unfairly, then; but stand in fear of your God. I, the LORD, am your God.” The fear of John the Baptist made King Herod tremble until the fear of disappointing his guests griped his heart. At the command of this tyrant another prophet is sacrificed. The Lord Jesus submitted to this same injustice when in fear of loosing their own power the leaders fulfilled the prophecy that it was better for one man to die that the people might survive. It was the fear of the Lord or at least the fear of judgment that brought many penitents to the confessional of Saint John Vianney. It was there in the sacrament of mercy that sinners learned the difference between being afraid of God and living in the fear of the Lord.
The year of jubilee was to be observed by every one returning to his own property. The fairness and justice of God was to be revealed in the life of his people Israel. These chosen ones had come to know true justice from the hands of the truly Just One, the Lord who made heaven and earth. As it was written, every fifty years things would go back to the way they were when first the liberated slaves received their inheritance from the hand of the Lord. The very economic life of God’s people was to reveal his justice. Never were his people to become so attached to their property that they longed more for life on the land than for life with the Lord of all the earth. This jubilee year was a radical reminder to all who live upon the land and harvest its blessings that they are still children of God dependent upon his gifts. At least every fifty years all are challenged to remember that success and prosperity are the result of cooperation with God and His Covenant. We are not the source of our own blessings; we are not gods. “I, the LORD, am your God.”
Herod the tetrarch had forgotten that the Lord is God and he lived in defiance of the law of God. The prophet John, preached the truth that the king did not want to hear. John the Baptist was thrown into prison for warning the king that it was not lawful for him to live with the wife of his brother Philip. Adultery at such a high place among the people brings chaos and ignores the authority of the Lord’s commandments. Herod removed the voice of John from the public forum, but this was not enough to silence the prophet. At another moment of lust and power Herod promises the daughter of Herodias whatever she wants. Prompted by her insulted and prideful mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. Herod was caught between his own pride and that of his vengeful and unlawful wife. He chose to end the even the silent witness of the prophet John. When Jesus heard of the final witness of John he was given a glimpse of his own future. He, too, would die at the hands of lawless and prideful men. His silent witness before the powerful leaders of Israel and the might of Rome would speak of God’s justice before all the nations in every age. This is the radical witness that we renew every Eucharist. In the breaking of bread and the pouring out of wine we hear the testimony of God’s unfailing love and eternal justice. All people of every age and nation are summoned to stand in fear of the Lord, and all are called to reveal the Lord’s justice in relation to one another. A justice that brings us back to the very beginning of creation. Where we recognize that we are all dependent upon the Lord of all.