August 29, 2008
Martyrdom of John the Baptist. Memorial
Mark 6: 17-29
Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias's own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you." He even swore many things to her, "I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the Baptist." The girl hurried back to the king's presence and made her request, "I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Introductory Prayer: My God I believe in you with all my heart because you have made yourself known to me in so many ways, especially through the gift of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope in you because you have never abandoned me. I love you, Lord, because you have loved me first and have shed your blood for my salvation. I want to love you with my whole life. Recognizing my sinfulness and trusting in your mercy, I humble myself before you. Mother Mary, I entrust my life to your maternal care so that I will always be faithful to God’s holy will for my life.
Petition: Lord, help me to remain faithful to you even when things are difficult and it costs my human nature greatly.
1. Called to Repentance
Saint John the Baptist didn’t mince words; he called everyone to repentance. This didn’t go over so well with some folks like Herod, who was living in an adulterous relationship. St. John made sure to tell him that it was sinful. Herod put John into prison for it. Even in prison, St. John didn’t offer an apology or water down what he said. He stood by his convictions to the last. In our day-to-day life, our faith may be tested, too, even if only a little. This is our opportunity to imitate St. John and bear witness to Christ in our life.
2. No Room for Compromise
Herod shows us how not to behave. Herod was a people-pleaser. He didn’t operate on conviction or beliefs, but on what would earn him popularity and fame. This is a sad way to live, yet we can fall into this in little ways if we are not careful about the details of day-to-day life. When it comes to our faith, there is no room for compromise. All too often people compromise, fall, and do great damage to the spread of the faith and to their own consciences. We need to be people of faith in Christ – without fear or limits.
3. Giving It All for Christ
Saint John is beheaded. He had done what he set out to do: prepare the way for the Messiah. Though St. John’s faith in Christ was tested – we read elsewhere in the Gospels that he sends a few of his disciples to question Jesus – in the end he remains firm and faithful. He lays down his life in defense of the truth that God sent him to call people to adhere to Christ. He did God’s will without hesitation. Having pointed Jesus out to others, he dies to give testimony to Christ and to the truth that will set us free. Am I faithful to Christ in everything?
Conversation with Christ: Christ Jesus, I want to be faithful to you like St. John the Baptist was. At times the pressures on me are many and great, yet I know that if I trust in you and listen to your Holy Spirit, I can weather any storm that comes my way. I want nothing more than to be a faithful witness to your truth and love, because I believe in you with all my heart. I thank you for being faithful to me.
Resolution: Today I will avoid falling into any form of compromise and strive to bear witness to Christ in all my actions.
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