July 13, 2003
 King Herod heard of all this, for by this time the name of Jesus was on everyone's lips. He said, "This has to be John the Baptizer come back from the dead -- that's why he's able to work miracles!"
 Others said, "No, it's Elijah."
Others said, "He's a prophet, just like one of the old-time prophets."
 But Herod wouldn't budge: "It's John, sure enough. I cut off his head, and now he's back, alive."
 Herod was the one who had ordered the arrest of John, put him in chains, and sent him to prison at the nagging of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife.  For John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias "adultery."  Herodias, smoldering with hate, wanted to kill him, but didn't dare  because Herod was in awe of John. Convinced that he was a holy man, he gave him special treatment. Whenever he listened to him he was miserable with guilt -- and yet he couldn't stay away. Something in John kept pulling him back.
 But a portentous day arrived when Herod threw a birthday party, inviting all the brass and bluebloods in Galilee.  Herodias's daughter entered the banquet hall and danced for the guests. She dazzled Herod and the guests.
The king said to the girl, "Ask me anything. I'll give you anything you want."  Carried away, he kept on, "I swear, I'll split my kingdom with you if you say so!"
 She went back to her mother and said, "What should I ask for?"
"Ask for the head of John the Baptizer."
 Excited, she ran back to the king and said, "I want the head of John the Baptizer served up on a platter. And I want it now!"
 That sobered the king up fast. But unwilling to lose face with his guests, he caved in and let her have her wish.  The king sent the executioner off to the prison with orders to bring back John's head. He went, cut off John's head,  brought it back on a platter, and presented it to the girl, who gave it to her mother.  When John's disciples heard about this, they came and got the body and gave it a decent burial.
1. Immediately before this passage the disciples were sent two by two and were having their best run ever with healing folks. Immediately after the disciples report their successes.
Right now, though, John is murdered by the state, by the principalities and power, by the power of whimsy, by evil "chilling in its pervasiveness."
In the midst of our successes we also have this foreboding of unmeaning, of the power of the Nothing (read your Neverending Story again). Even when the powers that be enjoy being entertained by you, they do not have your best interest at heart, you are still trapped by them. So, like John, just keep telling what you know. Beheadings and crucifixions happen. Are you going to let that stop you?
2. Smoldering grudges are a dangerous thing. They lead to death. The person against whom you have the grudge or yourself who holds the same. This is similar to what Jesus has to say about anger being equated with killing.
We all seem to have some bit of Herodias in us. We all manipulate family. We all want to avoid confrontation at any price, even that of dismemberment.
May you increase your experience of the joy of clear speech, like John, and decrease your experience of the mind-numbing grudge.
3. The daughter, little Herodias, doesn't know what would please her, she takes bad advice. This is excellent motivation to know what you would answer when the offer of a life time comes, "Name your desire and you'll get it." If it is not clear in your head, your opportunity will pass you by and someone else will get your ear and then all the rest of you.
So, what's your bliss? Practice naming it. A part of the mystery is that the naming process actually brings it closer. Don't wait until it's too late and don't give any Miss America answers.