As I bring a week's retreat to close, I am ready to glean the results of that retreat in my daily living--back to ordinary time, so to speak! Today's Gospel, Mt. 14: 1-12, brings us the story about Herod, Herodias and their daughter, who pleased Herod so much by her dance for him on his birthday that he promises to a give her anything she asks of him. Little did he know that, prompted by her mother Herodias, who wanted John dead, she would ask for the head of John the Baptist, a prisoner of Herod's at the time. He certainly does not want to kill John but he also does not want to break his promise in front of his friends. His integrity is at stake! So he gives in to her!
How often do we betray ourselves, afraid of losing face with our friends, so we do what we really do not want to do, even if that means committing a grave sin. Doing so, I believe, means that I have been unfaithful in small ways and thus am more vulnerable to committing graver offenses! Without grace, without God, we are apt to go astray, to betray our innermost self that is one with God. We are likely to do this, not once, but often. St. Paul struggled, just as we do, to do what is right. He describes that struggle, in part, in Romans 7:21-25: "...[E]very single time I want to do good it is something evil that comes to hand [as with Herod and Herodias]. In my inmost self I dearly love God's Law [and so did Herod and Herodias, I believe], but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body....Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Lord, you know my weaknesses. You know that often I give in to the dictates of sin within me rather than following the guidance of the Spirit within my deepest self. Have mercy on me, Lord, when I fall into sin and give in to pressures outside of me, as did Herod's daughter and Herod himself. Temptation is everywhere but so, too, are You, O Lord! I ask for the grace to call upon you, especially when I am tempted to follow the voice that opposes at the Holy Spirit at work within me. I ask for these graces in Jesus' name. Amen.