The Heartbreak of John the Baptist

In today’s gospel we heard the well known account of the beheading of John the Baptist. I have to admit, I wonder if John should have played the long game. He didn’t need to call out King Herod. It is not as though Herod was popular with Jewish people. He was thought to be Jewish in name only as he was of Idumaean ancestry, a conquered people forced to convert to Judaism in order to keep their status and wealth. While Herod publicly identified himself as a Jew, this religious identification was undermined by his decadent lifestyle which earned him the antipathy of observant Jews. Continue reading

Leaving it behind

At the end of the encounter in the gospel for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time: “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.” Tannehill (Luke, 101 – found in Stoffregen) presents the economic and social implications of this leaving:

“Leaving everything” means leaving the family (cf. 14:26) and leaving one’s means of support. The family was the primary producing unit in antiquity. Whatever economic security there was came through the family. In leaving their families these men were abandoning family responsibilities and their own security. However, we will see later that they moved from an original family to a “surrogate family,” the community of disciples (cf. 8:19-21), as the primary group. This decision did not suddenly make the disciples individuals in the modern sense, but it would take some strength and independence to decide against the group to which society gave the highest value.

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