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A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark 6:14-29

King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”

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’ 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.

REFLECTION: "The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her".

Have we ever done something, knowing it was not right, but yet did it? Most of us would have a guilty conscience.

But King Herod did not feel any guilt when he had John the Baptist beheaded for a promise made. It was not til he thought that John the Baptist was resurrected that fear woke up his conscience and the memory of what he had done came back to haunt him. He was the most powerful man in the kingdom and he had everything he wanted, yet he was scared of what he had done because he was afraid that John the Baptist was back. He did not have a clear conscience. He lacked good character. He was a coward. He did not have peace.

John the Baptist boldly told King Herod that he had sinned by having relations with Herodias. Herodias hated John and because of her sin and because Herod needed to save face, John the Baptist was martyred. John the Baptist clearly knew his mission, he loved God and stood up to the mighty and powerful Herod. He was faithful to God.

God gives grace and strength to those who humble themselves and ask for it. He gives us the means to fight temptation, to not compromise in what we know is not correct, and to stand outside of the majority and object to all that is morally wrong. God gives us the grace to stand up to the politicians and demand an end to abortion. God gives us the strength not to shrink back when faced with adversity or going against His commandments. He gives us the grace to do that which is right.

Do we know what stance we should take but we don't for fear of reprisal or of being singled out as a "loony" or "being out of the mainstream"? Do we pray for our priests and defend them? Do we go and pray at Planned Parenthood and be willing to be called a "religious zealot"? Do we defend our Catholic faith in social gatherings? John the Baptist's martyrdom reminds us of the need to bear witness to our faith, to be willing to give up our life as a witness to God.

Are we ready for that battle?

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