Post | March 2023 | Lent 2023 | 3 min read

Locusts and Wild Honey Part 6: MURDERED CONSCIENCE Mk 6:17-29

Written by Fra' Georg Lengerke

Dear Friends,

During Lent 2021, we offered a spiritual journey through Lent in Germany for members of the Order, their youth and its Relief Service. It was entitled "Locusts and Wild Honey" (Mt 3:4) - Fasting with John the Baptist. Through Emilie Verbeken, these weekly impulses also found their way to Belgium. Thus the idea was born to offer and publish the Lenten meditations on John the Baptist also for interested people in other countries. I thank Emelie Verbeken and Florentine Haeusgen warmly for the idea and its realization - especially for the translation from German into French and English. It would be nice if in this way our patron could help us to have a fruitful time of conversion.

To all of you a blessed Lent and renewal of soul and body,

Fra' Georg Lengerke

John the Baptist dies in an argument. It is about love and loyalty, passion and happiness, sex and power, its use and abuse.

Although King Herod is an unpleasant contemporary - in order to understand John the Baptist, it helps me to put myself in the tyrant's place and to ask myself how I am similar to him.

The discussion with John the Baptist is about a seemingly very private question. "For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife." (Mk 6:18) The woman did not forgive the Baptist for this intervention. A reaction of her husband is not handed down. Herod may have retorted, "What is that to you?" He would probably also have joined the slogan: "Love is no sin!", which is now often quoted to protest against discrimination.

The latter is a good cause. But is the saying true? If you know the human abysses of love, this sentence will not pass your lips. People do terrible things out of love: they break into a marriage out of love. They take away a parent from a child out of love. They have a terminally ill or not yet born family member killed out of love. And how many of you have been betrayed, abandoned and deserted for love? Love is no sin, says King Herod. Sin is no love, replies John the Baptist.

Love can be something sacred and great or something corrupt and deadly - for the lover or the beloved. It depends on what it is about. Dante's Divine Comedy (1321) says that sin is misguided love.

Herod actually knows this. The confrontation that is fatal for John is not merely a confrontation between prophet and king. It is a conflict within the person of Herod. The evangelist writes that Herod feared John and at the same time liked to listen to him (Mk 6,20). Fear and sympathy. In Herod, there must have been a struggle between reason and the lower body, between love and instinct, a residue of affinity for the good and of longing for God's word and will.

Herod obviously knows that there are good feelings that are bad and bad feelings that are good. Revenge can be a good, satisfying feeling, but it is bad. The almost physical rumbling over a lie, on the other hand, is extremely unpleasant. But at the same time, it is a sign of a well-functioning conscience.

Then the daughter of his mistress dances, and Herod promises her everything - up to half of his kingdom. The girl wants the Baptist's head and something strange in Herod prevails: "Because he had taken an oath before all the people", Herod has John beheaded. The haute volée of Jerusalem is gathered. Before the establishment of the people of Israel, his reputation and standing are at stake. But Herod does not want to lose face - even if it was a false face.

This still exists today among the people of God, in all camps: that we do not want to lose our reputation with the majority and that we are ready to do anything for it. Rather, the truth dies than our good reputation. Rather, the voice of conscience dies in the dungeon of our soul than approval from the people. The party is always right.

Herod would rather have lost his false face before the people than the true voice in his heart. Better his reputation in Jerusalem society than the call from the dungeon of his soul reminding him of God's truth.

We could say: How Herod lives is none of our business. We could say: The future of God's people does not hang on such questions.

But can it really be that John the Baptist died only for a private and secondary matter?

Fra' Georg Lengerke.

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