Well, today’s Gospel reading tells the sad story of how the life of Saint John the Baptist came to an end because of the deep seated anger and resentment of someone whose behaviour he had challenged. Please do read it very carefully as it has much to teach us about the importance of how you might respond to the challenges and critique of others. None of us like being criticised, but the way in which you respond can sometimes lead to more pain and heartache for others as well as for yourself.
The story is a sad and sorrowful one. John has spoken out against Herod for marrying his brother’s wife Herodias. In many ways Herod was in awe of John, seeing him as a profoundly spiritual man, but he was rather weak and very much dominated by Herodias his wife and, as a result, Herod had imprisoned John. Notwithstanding the imprisonment of John, however, Herodias still continued to nurse a deep anger at John and waited for an opportunity to have him killed which, as we know, was at last provided by the brash promise of Herod to the girl who danced for him at his birthday celebration.
This rather challenging Gospel story may bring to mind moments in your own life when, perhaps, you feel that you have been criticised unfairly. Perhaps you have gone away and brooded over it feeling sore and hurt. Maybe you have thought about how you might get back at the person who has hurt you? However, another possibility undergirding your response might just be that being criticised has brought you face to face with an aspect of your life and personality which you have not accepted or have been running from.
Could these difficult moments in our own lives be the beginning of prayer? If you are like me you may find the way into prayer very challenging and rather daunting. How do you begin to talk with God? How do you begin to open your heart to the One who is the source of all life? Perhaps our hurt and anger about being challenged by another can be a surprising and unexpected window into the fathomless love of God.
Yes, surprising though it may be, you will find new peace and healing for your lives as you take your hurt and grievance to God in prayer. Start by finding a peaceful place, sit down and, in the silence, recall to mind a passage of scripture that has deep meaning for you. As you open your heart and mind to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ pray, also, for the one who has hurt you. Draw close to them and ask for the wisdom to see the issue that is causing you sorrow from their perspective. Reflect on any insight that you have gained and then ask for grace and wisdom to move on with your life.
From time to time all of us are criticised or challenged and it is such a shame if we react like Herodias with such bitterness and anger that it spoils our own lives and wrecks our relationships with others. How tragic that Herodias was not willing to face up to and live with the truth in John’s critique of her.
Perhaps you are living with frustration and bitterness caused by someone and, just maybe, it could turn out to be a window into prayer and the healing, unconditional love of God. As you pray the moment of conflict you may become aware that the truth is greater than your limited understandings of it and that you need to look to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life to bring true wholeness and healing to your life.
Canon John Green
- How does your faith help you in times of conflict and difficulty?
- Are there key moments in your life, such as times of conflict and thanksgiving that might be a gateway into prayer?
- In what ways might prayer help you to see yourself better and as others see you?