I have often considered the Gospel of today as a “sign of hope” for Herod, whom I had assumed sought out Jesus to make right his wrongs, most especially for killing John the Baptist. A friend of mine had suggested that this most likely was not the case, and that he was probably on a rampage and like his father, Herod was going to kill Jesus if he had reached him. I will say, this certainly made me stop and think.
I still don’t agree with my friend, because I think we get the sense that Herod Antipas is grieved by his own weakness and the bad decision he made to behead John, putting his own word and reputation before God. More than that, I think it gave me reason to stop and reflect about the importance of giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Of course, none of us can deny that there are people out there in the world who have the wrong motives, impure intentions and who gravitate towards wrong or immoral choices. There’s no question that it’s hard to give people we know have typically made bad choices the benefit of the doubt that they will make good ones – but it happens, and more often than we might believe. There are conversion stories taking place each and every day. I know, because I was one of them. I know with absolute certainty that I am a Catholic Christian, a Catholic priest because the Lord God gave me the benefit of the doubt (but He knew my heart & the Providential Plan) but so did others too. As the Lord’s love was penetrating my heart, there were others (who didn’t know the old me too well, but didn’t question my conversion or motives) who gave me the benefit of the doubt, and my life changed. My propensity for making poor choices decreased, my seeking the Lord’s help day by day increased and here I am now.
To see the “glass half full” and to give everyone the benefit of the doubt may very well attack the defensive wall each of us builds up to protect ourselves from being hurt, betrayed, slandered or maligned, maybe even destroyed. It may attack what we feel protects us, but if we have faith and trust in the Lord we know that He is Who truly protects us. He is who consoles us in our fears, our struggles, and comforts us in our afflictions. It is the Lord who gives us the strength and the courage to give others the benefit of the doubt.
Something else really quite amazing happens too. If we do this for others, not only are we truly being Christians in the world, there will be a change in the people around us. If we’re less defensive, others will be too. If we give people the benefit of the doubt they too will have a change of heart, and possibly been drawn closer to the Sacred Heart. This world will be a much better place. We don’t know what Herod’s motives were, but if we are to be suspicious of them (even in our prayer and personal Lectio) we won’t truly break through to the joy of the Gospel and if are to believe that it was to be redeemed, then we live in the hope and joy that the Gospel calls each of us to live in.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray today for the strength, the courage the wherewithal to believe that as Herod sought out the Lord it was the right time for his conversion and let us continue to pray that we welcome the converting into our Christian lives with loving and open arms. May God bless you.