Freedom versus Slavery, Saturday of the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (I), August 3, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary, Summit NJ
August 3, 2013 — Votive Mass of Our Lady, Pillar of Faith
Lev 25:1,8-17; Ps 67; Mt 14:1-12

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

8.3.13 Homily

The homily attempted to cover the following points:

  • There’s a huge contrast in the readings today that help us to put into context our own life and the importance of the choices we face.
  • In the first reading, God established the Jubilee every 50 years to remind the Israelites of what he had done for them in Egypt and to help them to become more like him: he had liberated them from slavery and brought them back to their own land, the land he had given them. Likewise, many of the practices for the Jubilee were to help restore those who had hit hard times back to the possession of the inheritance he had given them. The Jubilee was to celebrate their freedom, experience it anew, and share that gift with others. 
  • The whole mission of Jesus, as we saw yesterday in the Nazareth synagogue, was to announce liberty to the captives and proclaim a Jubilee Year for the Lord, a Jubilee that would know no end. But when St. John the Baptist was announcing the path to true freedom, to the liberation from the slavery of sin, Herod Antipas didn’t want anything to do with it.
  • We see Herod’s slavery in the Gospel. He had become so debauched by his lusts that he had stolen his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, from him in Rome — even though Herodias was his niece — and had his step-daughter and great niece, the equivalent of a princess, do an ancient striptease dance exposing herself before his drunken courtiers, and rather than fill him with shame, it pleased him very much. He swore an oath to give her anything she requested. We can imagine what she might have said. I want you to commit suicide. I want you to massacre all of these courtiers. I want you to become a slave of your brother, my father, in Rome. But she asked for John the Baptist’s head on a dinner platter at the behest of her mother. Instead of birthday cake, the decapitated head of a prophet would be brought in. That’s how enslaved Herod had become.
  • On this Saturday, we see in Mary, our pillar of faith, the path to freedom. Her Immaculate Conception was, as the fathers of the Church said, so that she could freely say yes to God, yes to the real path of liberty, and no to sin. That’s a choice she made repeatedly to show us the way. Her fee fiat is an echo of the amen we’re called to say each Mass, yes that we believe in Christ and yes that we accept Christ and the liberty and jubilee he brings.
  • At the beginning of the Gospel, Herod in his paranoid imaginings, flowing from a corrupted conscience, believed that when he heard of Jesus, John the Baptist had been raised from the dead. At the end of the Gospel, however, the disciples of the Baptist take his corpse to Jesus, to the one who one day would raise his cousin and precursor in life and death from the dead, to live forever in the kingdom that he had chosen freely even while he was in earthly chains. We ask through St. John the Baptist’s intercession and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s to receive that gift of Jesus’ risen life today and to continue to choose it and experience the joy of a jubilee here in this world and forever.

The Readings for the Mass today were as follows: 

Reading 1
LV 25:1, 8-17

The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai,
“Seven weeks of years shall you count–seven times seven years–
so that the seven cycles amount to forty-nine years.
Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, let the trumpet resound;
on this, the Day of Atonement, the trumpet blast shall re-echo
throughout your land.
This fiftieth year you shall make sacred
by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.
It shall be a jubilee for you,
when every one of you shall return to his own property,
every one to his own family estate.
In this fiftieth year, your year of jubilee,
you shall not sow, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth
or pick the grapes from the untrimmed vines.
Since this is the jubilee, which shall be sacred for you,
you may not eat of its produce,
except as taken directly from the field.

“In this year of jubilee, then,
every one of you shall return to his own property.
Therefore, when you sell any land to your neighbor
or buy any from him, do not deal unfairly.
On the basis of the number of years since the last jubilee
shall you purchase the land from your neighbor;
and so also, on the basis of the number of years for crops,
shall he sell it to you.
When the years are many, the price shall be so much the more;
when the years are few, the price shall be so much the less.
For it is really the number of crops that he sells you.
Do not deal unfairly, then; but stand in fear of your God.
I, the LORD, am your God.”

Responsorial Psalm
PS 67:2-3, 5, 7-8

R. (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
The earth has yielded its fruits;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

Gospel
MT 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.