August 29, 2013
Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
Mk 6: 17-29
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it. ”And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom. ”She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer. ”Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Jesus, let’s talk!
Do you think Mary ever had a conversation with Jesus about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist? Mary might have asked, “Son, wasn’t there anything you could have done to save your poor cousin’s life — at least you could have spared him such a gruesome death. Jesus, I feel awful for his followers. How traumatic to bury the remains of John’s body. Help me understand, son, why you let all of this happen.”
Yet Mary understood that John’s death was a precursor to her son’s horrific fate. Sometimes we call out to Mary about the inconceivable hurt, tragedy, loss in our own lives. We don’t understand the why for the suffering. How bizarre that John the Baptist would suffer such a hideous death just to placate Herod’s selfish, vengeful wife. It seems almost a travesty of John’s life.
Yet we hold to our Lord’s promise. Nothing will separate us from his love. While we are vulnerable, we cling to his life preserving love that never abandons us — despite the surface reality. Though we don’t understand why we must endure suffering, our faith assures us that suffering and death will not have the last word. Somehow through it all we will arrive at a deeper understanding of our life’s purpose. We will find a way through because we will keep our eyes fixed on “The Way.”
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Lord, too, often when our position, power, image, or likeability is threatened, our backbone crumbles as the other’s reputation is decimated. Grant us your grace to surrender to you and to fill up on your love and protection. Surround us with co-workers, family members, and friends who strengthen our resolve to face conflict with truth and to remain loyal to the one wrongly accused.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
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