“'I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.'... 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 beheading of John the Baptist has always been one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament to read. Horrific and barbaric, we cringe and withdraw from the image of someone bringing the head of another human being to a banquet to satisfy the rage of a woman whose marriage has been condemned.
Unfortunately, to the horror of most people in the world, this scene has been repeated recently with the death of James Foley, an American photo journalist, as an act of retribution against the United States for its involvement in Iraq and Syria. Full of rage and triumph Foley's killers insist there will be more executions, and there is no doubting their commitment. At least three other men identified as Christians were beheaded in July 2013 as young people watched and the crowd cheered.
Pope Francis, in responding to these atrocities, reminds believers that despite the awfulness of what we are witnessing, we must continue to live the Gospel: "Wars are always madness: All is lost in war, all is to be gained in peace, In deploring all of these, I wish to assure my prayers and my solidarity for those who are being held in captivity and for their families, and I appeal to the humanity of the kidnappers to free their victims," Solidarity with all people trapped by war and the willingness to seek new roads to peace is the only Gospel response.
Today, pray for anyone, especially children, caught in wars they cannot possibly understand.
What do you think is the Gospel response to overwhelming violence?