Today’s Gospel: Mark 6:14-29
“With his whole being he loved his Maker and daily had his praises sung.” (Sirach 47:8)
These words from the first reading, referring to King David, could easily have been said of St. John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus and the last prophet of the Messiah. What a noble vocation John had, and yet how heartbreaking was his end!
John’s death has always caused me some consternation. I mean, Jesus was a friend and a family member, besides being the Lord. Could he not have intervened to save John? And why did John have to die at the hands of a murderous enemy like Queen Herodias? Perhaps the answers can be found by looking more deeply into the life of John the Baptist.
John was the first believer in Jesus, after Mary. Sanctified in his mother’s womb, John leapt for joy when the Mother of Jesus greeted his own mother, St. Elizabeth: “Even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:15).
His whole life was dedicated to the Lord: where he lived and what he ate, the clothing he wore and, most importantly, his ministry. His vocation was to turn the hearts of the people to God, preparing the way of the Lord though a baptism of repentance (Luke 3:3).
John is one of the only people in Scripture of whom it is said, “He will be great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:15). John fulfills his mission and is faithful to the end. In spirit of the martyrs, who gave everything for love of Christ, John was imprisoned for his preaching and murdered for speaking truth. He had told Herod not to take Herodias, the wife of his brother, and incurred her hatred for it.
John’s fidelity teaches us about how to love God. Whatever happens in life, we should believe that God loves us and is faithful, and strive to remain faithful in return. John is our inspiring example of absolute fidelity to God!
Another response I had to this reading was realizing that Herod, Herodias, and Salome were a family. Philip, Herod’s brother, who had his wife stolen from him, was also part of that family. The passage describes them: grudging and hate-filled (Herodias), fearful and perplexed, cowardly and worried about what other’s thought of him (Herod); talented and vain, subservient to and conniving with her mother (Salome).
The violent and vengeful Herodias orders the beheading of John, but her wish is carried out by the daughter, who delivered the sinister demands of her mother, and the father, who was too cowardly to stand up to her. Together, they killed a great man. The family unit, meant to nurture virtue and foster love, becomes twisted to do evil, committing one of the most abhorrent acts recorded in the Bible.
How can I be faithful to the Lord as John was, and create a home where we foster kindness and love?
Lord, you are faithful to those who love you. Help me to have faith in you in any circumstance.
Copyright 2014 Julie Paavola