Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist
(A gentler way of saying the Beheading of John the Baptist)
The readings today show the power of words. Someone who knows how to use words can motivate a group of people to do better. A coach of a sports team motivates athletes to win a championship. A leader of a military unit exhorts the troops to push forward under heavy artillery. A politician campaigning for an office rallies the supporters to gain voters. All have the gift of speech. This is a special gift that can have a positive or negative effect on individuals or on a group. The Word of God is powerful because it speaks to each soul in a special way. The Word of God is meant to bring us closer to God in our relationship with him. There are many graces/gifts that come through this Word which build up the Body of Christ.
In Saint Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he speaks of having the courage to proclaim the Gospel and that he and his companions speak to please God and not men. The focus of their words was to praise God through their teaching while preaching the truth of God’s Word. Saint Paul and his companions set out to build the Church one person at a time. We know that Saint Paul and the Apostles were mistreated many times as they went about spreading the Gospel message. In the end, all except Saint John, were martyred for their spreading of the Gospel.
In the Gospel, Saint John the Baptist knew that his call was to preach and proclaim the coming of the messiah. He held fast to his gift of preaching and teaching, putting his life on the line to speak the truth. He confronted Herod Antipas about his marriage to his brother’s wife when his brother was still living. Herod Antipas was a “king” with “power” who could not stand up to the truth when his wife asked for the “head of John the Baptist”. He could not humble himself and say no to her request. He would have appeared to be weak for refusing her request. What would people think of a king not keeping a promise? Even a king of ancient Palestine felt pressure from his guests or what he thought that his guests wanted. Some might have been on the side of the Queen. Some might have stood quietly, afraid to speak out, not wanting to go against the king or queen. Was there anyone there who did not agree with the request of the queen? Even in modern times not many people will step forward to ask questions or make objections when something is off track or unjust.
Do I have enough faith and courage to speak up when I know something is not right, true, or just? Do I have enough faith to speak about my faith to others?
Linda Schork is a theology teacher at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky.