Today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach offers a eulogy of the life and leadership of King David: “With his every deed he offered thanks to God Most High, in words of praise. With his whole being he loved his Maker.” A fitting tribute to the complex life of the Lord’s own anointed king of Israel.

Fast forward to the time of King Herod and his infamous banquet when Herodias’ daughter dances before the king and, as a reward, asks for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Truly an ignominious death for the man who baptized Jesus and invited the world to “Behold the Lamb of God.”

Kings and rulers of all stripes often hold the power of life and death. That power is often misused as the lives of grace-filled women and men become pawns in the intrigue of forces beyond their control. Perhaps these readings offer us encouragement to work for reconciliation, to strive for peace, to choose life!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team