Aug 29 – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (not used in 2010)
To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather is was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”
– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist
The word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying:
‘Brace yourself for action.
Stand up and tell them
all I command you.
Do not be dismayed at their presence,
or in their presence I will make you dismayed.
‘I, for my part, today will make you
into a fortified city,
a pillar of iron,
and a wall of bronze
to confront all this land:
the kings of Judah, its princes,
its priests and the country people.
They will fight against you
but shall not overcome you,
for I am with you to deliver you –
it is the Lord who speaks.’
Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.
An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half 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 straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
“They will not defeat you, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken.”
Today we celebrate the Passion of St John the Baptist. More remembered as the voice that cries out in the wilderness to make the way for the Lord, the baby in womb who leapt for joy when Mary visited, the one who baptised many, including Jesus. One who was steadfast in his faith, bold in reaching out to countless with his preaching.
In St John the Baptist, we have a role model that defines our mission in life too. When we say we evangelise, it’s not just to our friends, people who would listen, people whom we are comfortable with, but it’s to the exact opposite of the above.
The consequences or how his future was going to turn out like didn’t matter to St John for what was most important, was the encounter of Jesus. The relationship St John had was so strong that nothing could hold him back from sharing the beautiful gift with all. Do we have that conviction or that relationship with God? Why not?
We read in the Gospel that Herod was protecting St John, loved listening to him even though he felt uncomfortable. And I believe it’s because St John spoke the truth, though sometimes very uncomfortable, it’s something we cannot avoid forever but better if we can confront it, grudges, regrets, misunderstandings, unresolved hurts. Herod knew John was a holy man but eventually still succumb to a vow and took his life in such a cruel way.
Again, as from the past 2 reflections, what is really important to us, keeping to a vow that could have been made rashly, protecting one’s image, or like St John, speaking the truth, to know our mission in life. Our Lord has already given us His life and His love, it’s time for us to do the same for all. Let us stay true to our faith, to the creed we profess, to live a life of love. May we learn from St John the Baptist. St John the Baptist, pray for us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will continue to grow our relationship with you. To grow in conviction as we live out our mission. Empower us in our struggles, in our efforts to step out of our comfort zones. May we be beacons of hope, examples of love by our lives.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the gift of St John the Baptist. Thank you for helping us see that it is possible to love you as much in all our imperfect capacity. Thank you Lord for always being there.