The Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist
Today we recall the story regarding the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist. The movie versions of this story always spend a disproportionate amount of time on the dancing skills of Herodias’ daughter, the gleaming blade of the executioner, and the grizzly dinner party scene with Saint John’s head on a platter.
The evident point of the story, if you limit the time you spend reflecting on the details, is that if you stand up for the truth as God wills, you might not be the most popular guest at a dinner party! However, if you boldly proclaim the word of God, you will be blessed! In fact, according to the verse from Matthew in the Alleluia proclamation today, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."
I find myself asking today, how many times have I been persecuted for the "sake of righteousness?" I fear it hasn’t happened very often! I wonder how many of us have ever been persecuted for standing up and proclaiming gospel values. Not many of us will find ourselves in a drama like the one in today’s gospel, but all of us at some time will have opportunities to "stand up for the sake of righteousness."
Today’s feast at once seems to be both a tribute to the faith of Saint John the Baptist and a prophetic reminder of what true faith can lead us to; the foot of the Cross! As Christians we certainly are called to stand up for righteousness. The story of John the Baptist should make us uncomfortable, knowing the consequence of proclaiming our faith in word and action. The story should also inspire confidence. In the words of today’s reading from Jeremiah, "They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."
Terry McDevitt, Ph.D. is a member of our Passionist Family who volunteers at the Passionist Assisted Living Community in Louisville, Kentucky.