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We Need God to Save Us
Gospel Reflection for Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
"It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers,
his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.
Herodias' own daughter came in
and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
"Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you."
He even swore many things to her,
"I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom."
She went out and said to her mother,
"What shall I ask for?"
She replied, "The head of John the Baptist."
The girl hurried back to the king's presence and made her request,
"I want you to give me at once
on a platter the head of John the Baptist."
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders
to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Oddly enough, today’s gospel reminds me of a line from a Nero Wolfe Novel, written by Rex Stout. The character is a female lounge singer with little formal education but a very high IQ… an intuitive type of intelligence. She responds to a question, “Oh I never read the Bible; most of the men in there are terrible…. the women are, too” (paraphrased since I don’t have the book nearby). She is not wrong, and really that is the point of the Bible. In our era, far too many (even Catholic) schools teach that all the horrors of history are due to white men, especially Jews and Christians. All women, and especially non-white women, are purely innocent victims in every era. Of course, even a cursory knowledge of real history disproves that.
The history of all of humanity is violent and horrible. Every tribe, nation and culture on earth has practiced slavery, waged unjust wars, subjugated others. Every race of man is equally a murderer, adulterer, rapist, idolater and thief. All of humanity comes from our first two parents, through whom we inherit our sinful nature. Men and women are both selfish, violent and sinful. Perhaps one reason so called feminists cannot admit that abortion is murder is that they would have to acknowledge that women in modern America take more innocent lives than men… or at least that they are (in the vast majority of pregnancies) equally responsible for the death of a child as is the father. Whereas men are more likely to be openly, physically violent, woman are often cunning and devious, dishonest and manipulative. As the Bible states, “all have sinned.”
Indeed, the hipster in the Nero Wolfe novel gave a very honest and truthful answer. In the end of the novel, she realizes that she has not explored much of what there is to know. She enters college. Fortunately, she leaves after only a semester or two stating, “I realized the people there didn’t know much either.” Having discovered what is to be learned from books and experience, she is off for life’s adventures. Rex Stout was a brilliant author and one of the few fiction writers I still enjoy reading… I admit to seeing a lot of myself in his characters. He never mentioned if she ever picked up a Bible again.
That story was set in the early 1960s, when our culture was much more Christian than it is now. People had more respect for the Bible. I heard a news report last week that there are fewer practicing Christians, as a percentage, in America now than at any time since our founding. In fact, more people have left the church (all denominations) in the last 20 years, and especially since COVID, than all who ever joined in the great revivals and “awakenings” and even all the Billy Graham crusades over the last 200 years.
It is important to read the Bible. Of course, the Catholic Church stresses that to be ignorant of the Bible is to be ignorant of God. No matter what Protestants accuse us of, the Bible is a Catholic book and Catholics are instructed to read it. But, in a more general sense, the Bible teaches us about human nature. God’s Chosen People, the Hebrew race, are an analogy for all humanity in all those stories of wars and atrocities, murders, deceit and betrayal. Again and again, God saves them, but their gratitude is short lived. They turn away from God and fall into sin. They suffer. They repent. God saves them again. And again, and again. Finally, Jesus comes and takes on all the penalties for all the sins of mankind for all time, giving all of humanity a chance at redemption. Yet, most refuse Him due to ignorance, arrogance and fallen human nature. We can see the worst of ourselves in the pages of the Bible. We can also find the best in the heroic stories of those whose faith was strong and who strived to obey God. We also find hope in God’s promises and unfathomable love.
Just as importantly, we can see that, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Contrary to the “Progressive” or liberal ideology, humanity is not progressing or getting better. We are just as bad now as our ancestors were thousands of years ago, and in some ways we are worse. No political or secular ideology can ever overcome human nature. Only through the true, revealed religion of Christianity can there be any peace in our world or in our souls. Man cannot redeem mankind, only God can. Through the Bible and the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church, we have the only true remedy and the only true hope.
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic