Bible Study: Leviticus 25:1-17, Ps.67 and Matthew 14:1-12)_
_“Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ And the king was sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison” *(Matthew 14:8-10).*_
While our first reading today contains God’s instructions to Moses for the establishment of the year of Jubilee, our Gospel passage contains a rather sad memory of the circumstances surrounding the death of John the Baptist whom Jesus said: “among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
As God told Moses, the year of Jubilee which occurs after every 50-year interval shall be a year of liberty to all inhabitants (freedom for all including prisoners held in captivity), a year of complete restoration (each of you shall return to his property even if it was sold before, the person who bought it gives it back to you), a year of complete rest (rest even for the land itself given that there would be no sowing, no reaping, no gathering of grapes). The jubilee year was indeed a time to look forward to. Imagine you getting back all property and lands belonging to your ancestors that was sold before.
At the start of his earthly ministry, Jesus declared a year of Jubilee when he said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). As you would notice, Jesus’ Jubilee took a slightly different turn; His was not just a year but an entire life of Jubilee that brought about freedom to captives, freedom from oppression, freedom from blindness, sicknesses and the darkness of sin.
To this day, we continue to benefit from the great Jubilee ushered into world history by Jesus Christ. The church has continued the tradition of the Jubilee year with through its celebration of the Year of Mercy. We had one not too long ago. It was truly a time of renewal, a time of confession and repentance.
Our Gospel passage reminds us that even Jesus did not find it easy in bringing about the status quo. In fact, many paid with their dear lives. John the Baptist despite his greatness among those born of women was killed by Herod at the request of a little girl. Seen from an earthly perspective, John’s death is quite shameful and does not deserve of such a great personality, but seen from the eyes of faith, John’s death is truly glorious. John died in active service; John died like a soldier on battleground; John died proclaiming the truth of the sanctity of marriage, the evil of adultery and the sin of corruption.
One lesson we must learn from the action of Herod is to *avoid speaking when we are super-excited. Avoid making promises when you are in a good mood. Words are powerful.* When spoken, we can never take them back. Think before you speak. Do not speak first only to regret it later. It was only when the little girl mentioned her prize that Herod realized the full implication of the promise he made. He would live the rest of his life to regret this. How he wished that Jesus Christ was John the Baptist who had returned back to life.
Don’t make this mistake. *Be careful of making promises when you are at the peak of excitement especially such excitements that trigger erogenous regions of your body. You might never be able to take back your words.*