THE PASSION OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST THURSDAY OF THE TWENTY-FIRST WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME AUGUST 29, 201
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark 6:17-29
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist 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.
St John the Baptist was the cousin and precursor of the Lord. He was beheaded by King Herod for telling the King that what he was doing was not right. Angering the King and his mistress, St John the Baptist stood firm, and died for God.
We are asked by God to follow His ways and to make disciples for the Kingdom. John the Baptist did his preaching in the desert living a strict life of impossible hardships. He received his calling from God -the desert was his chapel and many came to see the man who was in harmony with God and who had a profound capacity to bring souls to God.
Most of us are familiar with the horrendous atrocities in the Middle East by Isis against the Coptic Christians. We have all heard of the 21 Coptic Christians from Egygt who held fast to their faith and were beheaded for not renouncing their faith. One of the men who was captured was from Chad and was not a Christian the day he was captured.
When Isis demanded that each one deny Jesus and no one did, they proceeded with the beheadings. When Isis ordered the man from Chad to deny Jesus, he answered, "Their God is my God". That is how impressed he was by the Christians who gave up their lives for Jesus. He became a believer on the spot. saying, "Go ahead and behead me, your god is not my God. Their God is my God." The twenty Christian martyrs were witnesses to this man from Chad.
How can one describe this faith? Courageous? Loving? Convicted? Dedicated? Wizened? Bold?
What kind of faith did John the Baptist have that many followed him even into the wilderness? He hated sin, he loved Jesus so much that he put all before his personal comfort, and he gave and gave of himself. No greater prophet than John the Baptist has there been as John was the precursor for Jesus. Are we personally prepared to bring Jesus Christ to the world?