Fri, 2 August 2019
(Lv.25:1,8-17; Ps.67:2-5,7-8; Mt.14:1-12)
“It is really the number of crops he sells you.”
The earth is the Lord’s; it is not our own. And it is only by His grace that we share the fruits of the land. “The earth has yielded its fruits; God, our God, has blessed us,” our psalm declares. These fruits may be bought and sold, but the land is God’s own.
“In this year of jubilee, then, every one of you shall return to his own property.” “This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.” The jubilee year delineated in our first reading makes clear that we are God’s and not our own or anyone else’s. While we tread this earth, in the forty-nine years leading to the jubilee, land is bought and sold, even slaves are made and taken. But come the jubilee the trumpet is blown and all return whence they came: in this moment we go back to our homes and find the truth – that we are God’s alone. All that is bought and sold is only temporary; these crops are consumed and pass away. The land from which they come is in God’s hands and does not pass away. To it we must return. For He is our portion and cup.
“May all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Indeed, we should fear Him who holds the earth and all its peoples in His creating hand. We should not presume upon God’s mercy and “deal unfairly” as we buy and sell in this world with all that He provides. In our gospel Herod is gripped by fear because he knows he abuses the power given him; he is struck to the heart by John’s preaching because his sin is exposed to the light. But instead of proclaiming liberty, instead of returning to the Lord, he hardens his heart against Truth, presumes license and not liberty, and has “John arrested, put in chains, and imprisoned.” But, of course, the Word of God cannot be chained; and Herod is not entirely wrong when he claims John has been “raised from the dead” in the person of Jesus, for the same Spirit which worked in this most fruitful of men comes forth fully in the Son of God. Good reason has Herod to fear.
And it must be noted that the beheading of John does not bring his end, but his beginning. It returns him to the land whence he has come. It is as his jubilee, his time to “return to his own property” – to enter the kingdom of God. For his body buried by his disciples is but as the crops bought and sold (and a more fair and abundant dealer in the fruits of this earth the world has not known); it is, of course, his eternal soul which finds liberty now in the land of the Lord.
This world cannot hinder the fruits that are of the Lord. In faith let us remain in Him, producing an abundant yield in His Name, that the way of the Lord “be known upon earth,” and that we may come to His salvation at the time of Jubilee. (We shall hear the trumpets resound through the halls of heaven.)
O LORD, there is a land
to which you call us to return,
and this heavenly homeland is all that matters.
YHWH, the earth is yours and all that it holds, and you call us ever back to you. Let us not be possessive of the gifts you give us but remember that the yield of the land is in your hands.
O LORD, you proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants of the land; you call all back to yourself, from whom we come and in whom we find our freedom. Your call to our hearts to glorify you we must heed, if we are to find your blessing.
But if like Herod we harden our hearts against your truth, LORD, if like him we seek to chain your Word with our corrupted hands… if to death we put your call, what shall be left within us? Then in what fear we shall tremble!
Your Prophet comes and walks amongst us; your power is upon Him for good. The trumpet resounds throughout the earth, calling all men to their ancestral homes. To you let us come with nothing but exultant joy at your presence.