King Herod heard of the demons cast out and the many who were anointed and cured, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him." But others said, "It is Elijah." And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised."
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it." And he solemnly swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What should I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the baptizer." Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:14-29
It's not unusual in a family for folks to hold grudges and never let siblings forget their mistakes. We as humans tend to hold on to the hurts, and the hurts festers and takes on a life of it's own. Good people can become a little monstrous when they have been hurt, slighted, or outed about some mistake. And we hate being reminded of our sins and failures and often want to punish the truth teller. I remember seeing a sign that really spoke to me - holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free in your head. We can all be consumed by a grudge.
Our gospel reading is the horrific end to John the Baptist's life. Decapitation to soothe the angry Herodias whom John had openly condemned. At a birthday party, the dancing daughter of the angry mother sold off the life of a faithful man to please her mother. She could have had riches beyond measure, but anger and fury so consumed their lives that violence seemed to be a better choice. Too often, we are hurt and angry and we can miss the huge blessings of life if we can let go of the grudges and the hurts. Jesus offered people a different way - the way of love, forgiveness and compassion.
Today, I ask God to help us all choose love, forgiveness and compassion over settling scores and acting out our hurt through violence and abuse. May we let go of our grudges long enough to see the celebration and the beauty around us. May God fill us so much that there is no room for anger, competition, rivalries and grudges. May we rather make room for others with our ready forgiveness and embrace.
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.