Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs
Hebrews 13: 1-8
Mark 6: 14-29
"Truth," whatever it might be, was not a value that interested King Herod, Herodias or her daughter very much. However, it did matter to John the Baptist, who said that the marriage of Herod and Herodias was not lawful. Because John the Baptist was a popular figure, his opinion carried much weight with the people. Herod was conflicted, spineless and willing to compromise truth in order to stay in power and protect his self-esteem. Deep-seated anger and resentment blinded Herodias from accepting the truth. Salome is committed to pleasing her mother rather than embracing the truth. Herod was a pressure casualty; Herodias was a pressure pusher; and Salome was a pressure pawn.
At different times, in different degrees, and at different stages of our life, we know the experience of King Herod. We can feel like we are in a pressure-cooker…pressures from deadlines, bosses, family, friends and work, pressures in which our Christian faith can put us at odds, and pressures to conform, to be popular and to be accepted. Herod did not do a good job of handling pressure. He closed his eyes to the truth. Herodias, incensed by John the Baptist telling the truth, pushes her ‘husband’ and daughter to act out her self-centered plans. Salome did not stand up for what is right and allowed herself to be a pawn of her mother’s evil designs.
Do you allow yourself to be manipulated by the pressures of other people’s expectations and demands? Are you able, in the midst of that pressure, to think clearly and make the right decisions based on the truth of Jesus Christ? When we are in the pressure cooker, remember Jesus, who suffered and died because he stood for God’s truth. If we fail or deny the truth, remember: what is more true than our sin is God’s forgiveness. What is more true than the pressure is the promise of Jesus, "And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Let’s not be pressure victims, pressure pushers or pressure pawns. With John the Baptist, with Saint Paul Miki and companion martyrs, with all God’s people we rejoice in the truth (Jesus Christ), trust in the truth and act in the truth.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.