Sunday Gospel Reflection August 4
The following is an excerpt from Cora Evans’ private revelations found in her book, The Refugee from Heaven, selected as a reflection for the Sunday Gospel passage Matthew 14:1-12.
In the center of the great hall, which was disguised as the Arabian desert, the guards had placed a huge copper kettle over an imitation fire. Around this setting Salome slowly began her dance of beautiful gestures, keeping time to the thudding tom-tom drums and high, silvery-toned trumpets and stringed instruments. As the dance neared its climax, five soldiers carried the copper kettle on their sword points in front of Salome as she danced, and slowly removed most of the veils of gold and green that she dropped into the kettle where they resembled billowy, bubbling mists in the glittering sheen of a thousand candle flames.
As this was in progress, Herod and Herodias, sitting in the dim of the candle light, talked about the stubborn-minded John. A soldier entered hurriedly and came straight to Herod. “The friends of John, the Hermit, are assembling in the grounds,” he said in a low, urgent tone, “and there seems danger of an uprising. They know you are keeping the Baptizer a prisoner and they demand his immediate release. What shall I tell them?”
Herod, in his usual blustery manner, shouted in annoyance and then sent for the wisemen. While he waited for them he played nervously with his swords. Salome finished her dance and glided, flushed and triumphant, to the table.
The wisemen could not be found, so Herod turned to Herodias for advice. Since toasts for her were in order at this hour of the banquet, she told him they would discuss the matter later.
Clapping, laughter, and shouts accompanied each toast. Then one guest arose and, holding his goblet of wine above his head, said, “Noble men and noble women, it is a despicable crime the way the penitential John, who is now in chains beneath this very floor, has spoken against this gifted woman, Herodias. None of us should allow his crime to pass without public apology and proper punishment. Let your applause tell Herod you are with him in his desire to have his laws obeyed!”
Everyone was in favor, it seemed, of honoring Herodias. In answer to the toast, and to honor Salome, Herod lumbered to his feet and raised his goblet. “I am at a loss,” he said, “for words with which to honor this beautiful Salome. Her dancing is an art beyond compare. But to reciprocate for the pleasure she has given us I vow before each one here tonight that I'll give her any favor she desires of me – even if it be half my kingdom!”
This was an advantageous moment for Herodias. Her cruel mind was diabolically busy as she beckoned Salome to follow her behind the heavy drapes, which hung near the table where Herod was bowing and making piteous attempts to conceal his hideous pride.
Back of the drapes, Herodias explained to her daughter the great and serious difficulty in which Herod was placed because of John's narrow views and power over the common people. “It is only just,” she whispered, “to help Herod come to a decision concerning this hermit. Why, his people are now at the palace gates causing a riot. Herod should make an example of this man, and now that you may ask for any gift you wish – I beg of you to ask for his head! Beheading is too good for him! You will never realize how he has harmed my character and prestige by his silly preaching. The guests in this room applauded when it was requested that he be punished. You heard it yourself, so I'm sure you will not be alone in your decision. Have his head brought to the banquet room on this silver platter.” She pointed to a huge tray in the butler's pantry. “When the common people hear your request there will be an end to the reign of the hermits and the prophets, you may be sure of that.”
Salome was startled and aghast at her mother's request. “Mother, are you mad?” she gasped. “Do you not realize this would be murder? Do not ask for this awful thing!”
Angrily, Herodias brought her face close to Salome. “So!” she said in a scurrilous tone, “fanaticism has its fingers in you, too. And I suppose you believe in the stupid Commandments Moses claims to have received from God. Answer me – are you a follower of John?”
Tears streamed down Salome's face. “No,” she answered, “I am not a follower of John.”
“Well then,” her mother demanded, “allow justice to be one by means of this gift, which has been made possible through me. It is the only way for you to honor our laws and become famous. You will climax this party when you make your request.”
Regardless of how she pleaded, Salome could not resist her mother. Beaming with success, Herodias returned to her place at the side of Herod. Her fat face was wreathed in smiles of satisfaction as she coyly fanned herself with her peacock feathers. Whispering her plan quickly to her husband, she asked him to call the attention of the guests. Herod drained another goblet of wine and pounded on the table with the hilt of his sword for quiet. Then bowing to Herodias he announced she had something of great interest to say.
Vehemently, Herodias told how brave Salome was, for she now asked Herod to have John beheaded and his head brought into the banquet hall on a silver platter and placed over the copper kettle for all to see. And if they so desired, Salome would again perform the dance of death – this time around the severed head!
Exhausted from too much eating and drinking, Herod fell across the table and slept heavily as Herodias continued to talk and to receive the acclaim of the drunken guests.
This has been an excerpt from Cora Evans’ private revelations found in her book, The Refugee from Heaven, selected as a reflection for the Sunday Gospel passage Matthew 14:1-12.