John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him…an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet…When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.”…She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” …Immediately the king sent a soldier. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. (St. Mark 6:18—28)
Take a Moment to Ponder
As I reflect on the gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost from St. Mark 6:18—29, I can’t help but see the manipulation and abuse of a child by her parents, and the lack of protection for that child from all the adults present. This manipulation is by Herodias of her young daughter, who clearly trusted her mother and looked to her mother for guidance and support. Mark tells us of this mother who wanted to get rid of another human being but couldn’t because her husband who appeared to have all the power would not allow it. The power dynamics in this passage is rife, but that is for another time. What I wish for us to focus on is the blatant abuse of a child by people she trusted, but in a wider sense, see this child as representative of all those who are powerless and vulnerable. The etymology of the Greek word used for girl (korasion), suggests one that is of no great account in society but also connotes one that is pure—a maiden, and one that is helpless—a damsel. This was used to show that her mother who had power over her, used that power to manipulate the innocent, pure and helpless child to further her own nefarious agenda. Coupled with that, the important guests along with Herod, allowed this child to be manipulated and were complicit in exposing this vulnerable child to violence, in the act of giving her a decapitated head. Mark records in clear terms that this was not on the young girl, but on her mother and I would say on all the powerful people present at that banquet. It was a conspiracy of abuse, with those who remained silent, being just as guilty of abusing and mistreating this helpless innocent child. They all were a party to the abuse of power, the exploitation of the powerless, the abuse of trust and an outright abdication of their collective responsibility to look out for the weak and vulnerable; and to safeguard the innocence of the child.
In this society where there have been long-standing issues of abuse of our children, women, elderly, who are the most vulnerable among us, this passage cries out to us to do and be better. In this society, where the silence around the abuse of our most vulnerable is so palpable, all of us must examine our role in the cycle of abuse and mistreatment of the vulnerable in our society. In this society where a 50-year-old man can repeatedly rape an 8-year-old child, we have to wonder, where were the adults in that home and that community. It is a stain on all of us. We are like the guests of Herod, we have joined a conspiracy of silence for far too long, which has allowed the scaring of our children, women and generally the poor in our society. The challenge for us from this passage is to step out of the shadows and break the silence in the Name of God. The challenge is for us to protect the vulnerable among us. The challenge is ending the cycle of manipulation of those who are innocent and powerless. The challenge is for us to call out and seek to change those who manipulate, misuse, and abuse those innocent ones who are at their mercy. The challenge is to be a society that welcomes and cares for the helpless, the vulnerable and the powerless. Until then, we shall never be a society at peace.
- Take a Moment to reflect on whether in your daily life, are a part of the silent crowd that protects the powerful and neglect the powerless
- Reflect on what ways you can contribute to making ending abuse of our children and women?
- Think of ways in which you can help to end the silent conspiracy that put our children and women at risk for exploitation and violence
A Moment in Prayer
Lord open our lips that as we tell forth your praise, we make speak out for truth, and lift our voices in solemn weeping for the vulnerable who you love. Give us the grace to take action to protect our children and all those who face abuse, manipulation, and mistreatment, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rev. Garfield Campbell