REVENGE

Sunday, September 11, 2016

But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ And the king was sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it; and they went and told Jesus.” (Mt 14: 6-12)

 

So, the girl’s mother has her revenge on the Greatest Among the Prophets. And yet, he is not the victim in this story. Because revenge is neither cathartic nor “sweet,” as both ancient wisdom and modern psychological studies show. It prolongs in the avenger the “unpleasantness” of the original, perceived offense, keeping him or her from “moving on,” and often triggers a new cycle of aggression. In the words of Francis Bacon, it keeps the wounds of the avenger “green, which otherwise would heal, and do well.” In the case of Herod, Salome, and her mother, they are left with a bloody head on a platter, along with the days and weeks that followed, to ponder the mutual manipulation that occurred between them on this night.

 

But the disciples of St. John the Baptist simply “came and took the body and buried it.” They do not continue the usual cycle of revenge. They moved on, as they “went and told Jesus.” And that’s what I’m going to do today, if confronted with any large or small injustice done to me, whether real or just perceived. I hand it over to Him, so the buck stops here, with Him and in Him. “Vengeance is mine, and recompense,” says the Lord (Deut 32: 35). Glory be to Him.

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