Zombies don't come to my mind all that often when I'm reading the day's Gospel, really they don't. But there was something about today's rather ghastly portrayal of the death of John the Baptist, and above all in Herod's own reaction some time (years?) later, that, well, yes: the undead did rise up in my imagination.
If you were a vicious (but basically cowardly) tyrant who had put an innocent man to an unjust and violent death, wouldn't you be afraid he'd be back in some other form to exact revenge? But if that innocent man had been a holy prophet of God, you wouldn't be surprised, would you, if he came back in the form of a wonder-worker? So Herod was convinced that Jesus was none other than John, back from the realm of the dead. Herod's superstition betrays his fundamental lack of real super-natural faith: a trend in our times, too. I wish I knew where I had learned this, but anecdotally it seems to ring true: that belief in and participation in occult or superstitious practices increases proportionately with the loss of Christian belief and practices in a culture. The most atheistic countries of Europe, I read, are those with the highest percentage of occult practitioners.
Which brings us to the matter of mission. The first reading had Jeremiah, threatened with death by the religious leaders for his prophecies against the city make his defense by repeating his offensive message. He was completely given to his mission, and into God's hands, come what may. His trust in God was complete, as was his gift of himself to the mission he had received. In this, Jeremiah reminds me of Paul: "I put no value on my own life, if only I may finish the course assigned to me." Of course, Paul's trust has something new to it: he sees the Resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate example of God's reliability in the most dire situation of all. God's love does not fail; his creative power comes up with remarkable solutions, not only surpassing but bypassing all human thought and expectation (and fear).
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Not zombies, for sure!)