#Thegodfather the reflection for Sunday, July 12, 2015 asks, “Is it easy to do what God asks us to do? What kind of people are we up against? What is happening and should I take a chance?” Find out in “The godfather”, the podcast for this week. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #TheGodFather #Corleone #Herod #Choices #BadPeople #BeingFaithful #JohntheBaptist #Mission12
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 7/12/2015 The 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 6:14-29.
Doing the work of God is not easy. Stop thinking that believing in God means you get a pass on the awful things that happen in life.
Thanks for listening to this podcast. Today, we will be taking the reading from the Protestant lectionary. This reading is reserved for the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist in the Catholic Church and this event often gets ignored. I wanted to bring it out into the open. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, the one who was sent to go before Jesus was killed because of his preaching.
Life is complex. There is this scene in the movie the GodFather where Michael Corleone ascends to the position of being the New Godfather, something he promised his wife he would never do. Confronted by his wife with the news of an unspeakable act he did to do to get his position, Corleone lies to her straight up. After all the senseless murders and lack of value on life displayed throughout the movie, I thought, “being in the mob is just so messy. You can’t trust anyone and at any moment, you could be wacked, that is killed. Wow, what a horrible life!” I have placed the clip of Michael Corleone’s ascension to being the new Godfather at the beginning of this podcast at the website MySpiritualAdvisor.com. It is a symbol of all the dying that must happen, even the death of a marriage and the trust of a spouse, so that one man can rise to the top.
Herod Antipas, the “Herod” written of in our Gospel lesson for this podcast, is just like Michael Corleone, the “New Godfather.” He comes from a family of men who know how to use power, murder, and lying to stay in power. They are capricious and dismissive of life. Herod, who likes John the Baptist, will kill him for no other reason than he is so capriciously delighted with a dance that he will give away half of his kingdom. It was a stupid thing to offer a girl who danced for you, but the kids on the playground of life surrounding Herod in this scene put a pressure of prestige on him to deliver his word.
If Herod had been a man of restraint, a man whose principles valued life, he would have dismissed the request and made the girl give him a more reasonable request for a reward for the dance. Yet, Herod is no different than anyone who is in charge of any organization. Jackie Robinson West Little League’s leaders broke the rules to put together a team to win the Little League Championship. Bosses fire younger more talented people in the office to keep their position. People in power in the church ruin the careers of those who are in line to be pastors and priests because their popularity might be challenged. Fame, power, fortune, all are reasons for eliminating the competition, by any means necessary, it seems.
The reason we celebrate it when someone does the right thing is because doing the right thing is dangerous. Just ask John the Baptist. Even so, this passage is not about John the Baptist. It is about Jesus. The placement of the story of John the Baptist’s death is very, very important in the Gospel of Mark in understanding what is being said here.
The Catholic lectionary reading highlights the mission of the 12 this Sunday. They are going out and healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching repentance, and people are coming to love God and live holy lives. The mission of the 12 in Mark’s Gospel is key because it causes a stir in Palestine. Word is getting out that these followers of Jesus are doing great things and setting people free. Eventually, word of the work of the 12 and Jesus reaches the puppet king over Palestine, Herod Antipas.
The good works, which will cause people to follow Jesus, are causing the authorities to look at Jesus. Who is this guy? Verses 14-16 are the crux of the issue. The story of the beheading of John the Baptist in verses 17-28 are backstory. The people are asking the question of who it is that is doing these things because he reminds them of John the Baptist. In fact, they think he is John the Baptist raised from the dead. Some said that Jesus is Elijah coming back as is told in the prophet Malachi in the Old Testament. Yet, Herod, the Michael Corleone, the Godfather, of this story, says, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
If I were to direct this scene in a movie, this line would be a close up. I would have the actor playing Herod look out into the distance as the camera was capturing his face. He would stroke is grimy little villain beard as the crown sat upon his curly brunette hair. With cunning, planning, and secret viciousness in his heart, the words would slowly drip off of Herod’s lips like this, “Hmmm, John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” The undeniable inference would be that Jesus, like John who went about baptizing, giving hope, gaining popularity, and pointing out the corrupt nature of Herod’s empire, would have to be dealt with; and he would be dealt with in the same way as John.
Sandwiched between the 12’s mission and Jesus feeding the 5,000 we have the plot to kill Jesus gaining steam. In 3:6, the Pharisees decided that when Jesus healed a man’s withered hand that it was enough! Jesus must die. Now, Jesus sends out the 12 and Herod decides that Jesus must die. Why does Herod think he must die? Jesus must die because Herod cannot have anyone question his popularity or authority, moral or otherwise.
We, too, will be called to do the right thing. We might lose our jobs. We might lose family members who just cannot understand. We might lose someone or something very important to us. If we think of Jesus Christ as some self-help quality that will make our lives better like buying something from a home-shopping network on television, then dumping our principles and Jesus makes sense in these situations. Yet, if we understand that following Jesus Christ means that God is acting in the world; that God is working through us to bring justice, peace, and love to others in a way that is pure and true, then taking the hit for the cause makes sense. We must be like John, like Christ.
As long as God allows us to make choices of how to use our power, no matter how small or great, there will always be the abuse of power by humans who cannot resist destroying others for their own gain. There will always be Herods and Michael Corleones in the world. There are seven deadly sins. They are called deadly because they kill people’s lives, careers, relationships, and futures.
Before I end, I want to tell you that last week a person to whom I had the opportunity to minister a few years ago came over to my house for dinner. There are some very painful things going on in her life. Yet, she was asked by her church to give a testimony about her faith to inspire others. She told me that I was a very important part of that testimony. She said, I taught her how to read the Bible and make it a part of her faith. Every so often, someone comes back and tells me that I made a difference in their life. Usually, it is at just the right time in just the right place, a time when I want to throw in the towel, or times have just gotten hard or complicated.
You may be facing a time right now when being faithful is not the easiest way. You may be facing a time when doing the right thing will cause you to take a hit or lose something or someone very dear to you. The question is, will you be on the side of life giving or the side of life taking? Will you understand your life as part of God’s plan to make a difference in the lives of others, or is God just a placebo to make your life new and improved? Is your power just for you and your glory? Your purpose is greater than you think. Believe. Trust. Do. Amen.
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