“From every evil way I withhold my feet, that I may keep Your words. From Your ordinances I turn not away, for You have instructed me” (Psalm 119:101-102)
Reflections on the readings for the Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (August 29, 2022): 1 COR 2:1-5; PS 119:97,98,99,100,101,102; MK 6:17-29
MISSIO offers “Preaching Mission,” as a homily help, providing connections to mission from the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
This child had been singled out to serve God and help His people by preparing the way for the coming of Christ.
Today we celebrate the second feast day that the Church celebrates in honor of St. John the Baptist. The other is his birth; now, it is his death. His conception was announced by an angel of God to his father. It was followed by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon John while he was still in his mother Elizabeth’s womb in the presence of Jesus who was likewise in His mother Mary’s womb. This child had been singled out to serve God and help His people by preparing the way for the coming of Christ. John spent much of his life in the wilderness where he lived on locusts and wild honey and dressed in camel’s hair. But as unusual as this was, what really set him apart was his service to God -- no matter the cost. He preached repentance for sin and baptized people who recognized their need to turn away from anything in their lives that was evil, anything that separated them from God. John was never afraid to speak the truth, even when it meant calling out those in power. This is exactly what he did in condemning the illicit and incestuous marriage of the Tetrarch Herod Antipas. “John had said to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ Herodias harbored a grudge against him. … She 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’ 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 … even to half of my kingdom” (Mark 6:18-19, 21-23).
Just as the Pharisees would later seek a devious way to kill Jesus, the vengeful Herodias used her daughter Salome to coerce her husband into having John killed. The vain, foolish, and weak Herod knew John the Baptist was innocent, but he lacked the courage to spare his life. And, like Pilate after him when trying Jesus, Herod preferred to take the easy way rather than the demanding path of justice and integrity. So St. John the Baptist became a martyr. He was beheaded and his head served on a platter to Salome who presented it to her mother. John’s earthly life of loyal dedication to the will of God was over. He had done all he could to ready the people for the coming of our Lord and Savior.