The Gospel according to Mark (6:14-29)
King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of 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 back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Opening Prayer: O breathe on me, O Breath of God, my will to yours incline, until this selfish part of me glows with your fire divine. O breathe on me, O Breath of God, so I shall never die, but live with you the perfect life for all eternity.
We all know the story of the beheading of John the Baptist. We see Herod agreeing to snuff out John’s life so as not to be embarrassed in front of the guests at the banquet. He does the wrong thing for personal gain – that of personal image.
Have we ever done the same? Of course we have, and by the grace of God we are forgiven for those transgressions towards others through Jesus’ death on the cross. Acts of commission AND omission can equally be devastating to those around us. We are called to choose carefully and wisely every day of our lives. Do we take time to do that in our decision-making?
Imagine yourself in the sandals of John the Baptist in prison. Isolated and cut off from doing the things he was called to do, namely preaching the coming of Jesus AND Baptizing in the name of Jesus and the Father. Does that sound at all like our current situation in the world? COVID has isolated us from family, friends and our church community. We are called to pause, like John, and reimagine our calling and to resort to our fundamental calling as Christians and a Catholic people – our calling to PRAYER.
We are not always able to adjust our lives the way we want and often times we are put into situations we have little or no control over, just like John the Baptist. So the question becomes how do we respond to those moments in our life. Can we still be powerful witnesses for Jesus and can we endure the temporary or permanent changes in our lives that test our trust in God. Like John, we must reflect and pray always, bringing Jesus squarely to the forefront of our lives. It is then that we can herald his “Good News” of salvation not only in our lives BUT in the world.
That can be a hard exercise in trust in these days around us and in our country. Many things that are rapidly developing around us can shake our very foundational beliefs in God truly being with us. Yet, today we can also turn to Jesus and herald his presence in our lives and share that with others. We can also announce the way of compassion and forgiveness that Jesus has for all of humankind.
Don’t be afraid, like John, to proclaim in everything and every moment of our lives that Jesus IS the way and we must follow his teachings and principles in order to gain the crown of Heaven! You can do it! You only have to try!
Closing Prayer: Lord, I ask for strength, just for today, to speak boldly of your unending love for me and for my fellow man. Give me the resolve to shout out your goodness, through my actions today towards others, that YOU are the way to eternal happiness.
Action for the Day: Stand in front of the mirror today and gaze deep into your own eyes. Look until you see your soul and then tell yourself that all will be well with Jesus as your guide. Smile then, because your soul will rejoice! BE BOLD! You are an AMAZING creation and so loved by God!