The message of Pope Francis’s pontificate has been mainly one of mercy and compassion, of understanding and forgiveness, and also of one directed towards caring for the poor and marginalized.

But not everyone is open to this message, and some of these insights, particularly around economic matters and environmental matters, can be threatening to people.

Nonetheless, even for those in opposition to these basic Christian truths, there is in all of us in innate desire to hear the word of God. We see that in our reading today. Even King Herod, one of the least palatable figures in the Gospels, wants to hear about John the Baptist. He is intrigued. In another Gospel passage we are told that Herod “liked to listen” to John the Baptist. So Herod is similar to many men and women of our time who feel drawn to the word of God, but also have a hard time accepting it.

It’s a reminder to treat each person, even people who might be opposed to the Christian message, with care.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.