Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.
Today’s Gospel tells the story of the plot that led to the beheading of John the Baptist. The interesting thing, however, is that this story is told because Jesus’ preaching somehow shakes Herod’s conscience: “But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’”
This statement, the result of a guilty conscience, tells us something interesting: The same fire and passion that one finds whenever dealing with authentic people lives in every true witness. We Christians know that the Baptist’s death not only precedes but prefigures Jesus’ own testimony. The crucified Jesus is announced in the innocent death of John the Baptist, but Herod cannot know this. We, on the other hand, do know it.
We also know that whenever a person suffers, like the Baptist suffered, Jesus himself is present in that pain. And even if we are actually responsible for our own suffering, Jesus is there as well. Suffice it to recall the story of the good thief. He knows all too well that he is guilty but finds the courage to turn to Jesus with immense confidence, “Remember me, Lord.” Jesus answers that prayer with the imminent promise of heaven.
Not all of us are John the Baptist. Sometimes we are Herod or Herodias, but what matters is whether we want to convert from this moment on.
Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.