Alleluia Mt 5:10
R. Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 14:1-12
Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, for John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people, for they regarded him as a prophet. But at a birthday celebration for Herod, the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests and delighted Herod so much that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests who were present, he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.
REFLECTION: "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousnessfor theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."
When I was young, my relatives from the city would visit us every so often. While the grown-ups visited inside, the children enjoyed the outdoors. We had a large front yard in the country where we used to ride our bikes and gladly shared them with our cousins. However, one evening a rambunctious cousin decided to ride where some of us were playing an outdoor game. I happened to fall during the game and wasn’t able to get out of my “Evel Knievel” cousin’s way in time. That’s right, he ran over my leg! I was in shock that he had the nerve to run over me as I watched him ride off without an apology. With my aching leg, I went straight to my mom to report this incident hoping my cousin would get what should be coming to him. I wanted to right this wrong. However, my mother shushed me, which taught me how to not complain when you have company. I didn’t understand the sacrifice I should make in letting this go, nor know as a child how to thank God for my hurt leg. My only consolation was knowing that my cousin would have to answer to God for doing wrong.
John the Baptist was executed for speaking against Herod’s wicked lifestyle. He gave the ultimate sacrifice, his life, to dwell in the Kingdom of God. St. John the Baptist led the way for Christians not only proclaiming the Good news of Jesus, but also showing us the way to holiness through his bold speech and sacrifice he made for righteousness. How many of us can do the same in front of family members or friends living in mortal sin? How many can speak out against the culture of death where laws do not protect the innocent and vulnerable?
If we don’t have the courage to speak out, we can lay this before the altar at mass and pray to God, Mother Mary and the saints, giving them our intentions. We can pray for all to have a desire to purposely live to please God instead of the crowd as Herod did.
Persecutions and injustices continue in our lifetime and so we must make a choice. Do we follow Jesus and pray, allowing these persecutions to be a blessing to us? Do we sit and eat with someone like Herod without saying a word? May God have mercy on us and give us the strength and perseverance to do His will for the sake of righteousness.