“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:3-4) We have so much for which to be thankful to God! Paul’s letter to the Ephesians proclaims the big picture of heavenly blessings that await us as well as God’s purposeful design for our day-to-day renewal on earth. God’s nature is graciousness and faithfulness. Yet again and again, through our daily choices, we fail to center our lives in God, living our faith inconsistently, with our loyalties divided between the world and God.
This Sunday’s Gospel describes Herod’s inconsistencies that led to the beheading of John the Baptist and more! Herod discerned that John the Baptist was “a righteous and holy man”. Knowing this, “he kept him safe”. Although perplexed by John’s preaching, Herod enjoyed hearing him. Faced with a crucial choice, Herod could either openly declare loyalty to God by continuing to keep God’s servant safe or save his reputation by keeping his promise to give his stepdaughter anything she wanted. His stepdaughter demanded John’s head and although exceedingly sorry, he granted her request. His choice ended John’s life and resulted in deep spiritual consequences. Hearing that Jesus and his disciples were spreading the good news of God through preaching and healing, Herod was troubled. Tormented by the guilt he moaned, “John, whom I beheaded has been raised.” He fell into even deeper sin, wrongly attributing the power of God seen in Jesus to John the Baptist.
How do we manage guilt and inner tumult when we choose loyalty to the world over loyalty to God? We can be consoled because God in Christ is unchangeably loyal. By his suffering, death, and resurrection Christ reconciled us to God. We can humbly turn to our loving Father, seeking forgiveness and the grace to recenter our lives in Him. He renews us so that we may be presented “holy and blameless” to God. Thanks be to God!