King Herod’s Lament

An Ignatian reflection written by Wendy Ratawa in response to our Lectionary on July 11th,
Mark 6: 14-29.

“Copyright (2021), Linked from Baptist Bible Graphics.”

King Herod’s Lament

It was wrong, so very wrong, to be impulsive, to follow through with that rash promise to my stepdaughter Salome after her beautiful dance at my birthday party.  Her dreadful request that surely was whispered to her by my new wife Herodias, upset by the criticism.  She had been my brother Phillip’s wife and the desert man had told the crowd that we had done wrong. But It’s her fault.  Just like Eve our ancestor. The woman makes the man weak and foolish.  I had expected the girl to ask for splendid jewels, fine clothes, even a palace of her own with marble halls, a garden with peacocks. But no, it was a death that was requested!

What else could I have done in front of a hundred or more of my well-off friends, and pretend friends. I could not back down. They would see me as weak, not fit to rule.  I would have been humiliated. We who are kings with power over life and death, don’t want our privileges to slip away.  

Now in the daytime I put on a calm face, pretend all is well with my soul but it is false. I know I have done something terrible.  That desert man, the Baptiser is not a criminal. I had spoken to him in the prison ante-room. I admired him.  I had not understood all that he said and stood for but… I had only wanted to confine him away from the crowds, that’s all.  

He said to me that people can change from doing harm to living rightly. He talked about examining our heart, confessing our sin, being washed in the River Jordan. I cannot do that. Only commoners could. I am their King. What would people think of me then?

Now he is dead and I am haunted at night by the hallucination of that terrible thing on the silver platter. It seems his lips are moving and I hear his voice saying ‘Why? Why?’ As I lurch around the palace, pillar to pillar, I hear the derisive hooting of owls, the mournful call of the raven and I am terrified. I grasp my collar and tear my night robe right down the middle, my custom for grieving. But it does not help. My skin Is prickling and damp, my head in a vice, my internal organs ablaze with pain.  

This happens night after night.  Herodias calls out to me, ‘Come back to bed.  Don’t be so obsessed.’  But I am sorry, so sorry,  but regret cannot change the story.

Now there is a new prophet man who also has the crowd following. A commoner, an ordinary villager.  Is he John come back to life again?  I fear that he will be popular too. My wife says, ’Don’t be silly. Don’t be superstitious.’

But what if kings and men in powerful positions, leaders of factions or religious groups such as the Pharisees or Sadduccees have it wrong.  That the powerful and privileged are not to be revered. This new teacher, Jesua, might turn it all upside down.  And like John the Baptizer, he too might not survive if he speaks the truth.  

My mind circles and meanders every night as I lurch about in the darkness of the night with this terrible grief in my soul.

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