Lenten Devotion: Wednesday, March 18

Psalm 119:97-120Psalm 81Psalm 82Genesis 45:16-281 Corinthians 8:1-13Mark 6:13-29

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” “The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
Mark 6:24

We Christians are horrified by Mark’s story of the murder of John the Baptist. The reason John was killed is the demon which presents itself to us, every day, when we make self-serving decisions, without considering or caring how it will affect others. We see Herod ignoring the evil which is present, as he sacrifices John, simply to protect his own pride. This demon is telling us to think of ourselves first and we will be falsely happy, but the way we cast the demon out, is to first consider how our actions will affect every other person, before we make a decision which will benefit ourselves. The way we truly find happiness is by putting others first in our lives, or as God’s word is simply put, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.

Until I had seen the paintings of female Italian artist, Artemesia Gentileschi, this reading of Mark was only a story. About 1610, she painted the intimate and realistic scene of Salome assessing the head of St. John the Baptist she held on a platter. The executioner, adjacent, is looking at her. His eyes say “was this what you wanted?” Herod granted a wish to the beautiful and seductive dancer that led to bloody and senseless death.

Why should we Christians be reflecting on Herod’s amoral decisions during these gray days of winter? Mark is not only teaching history, but also the consequence of giving in to temptations, especially those that are immediate. In our contemporary life we witness these events that change lives, bring human suffering and death.

This story reminds me of the darkness Jesus endured for forty nights, reliving dreams, nightmares and memories.

I recently walked in my garden with my daughter-in-law. Together we identified bulbs just peeking up through the hard icy ground. Lenten roses in bloom were the promised rebirth and spring to come.

Lord today, help me to be a better person, help me to help someone, and please forgive my sins, Amen.