Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
I wonder if we would have any martyrs in the Church at all if it were not for fear. Today we celebrate — yes, celebrate — the beheading of St. John the Baptist. Like all martyr’s feasts, John’s beheading is a celebration because it points to the sure knowledge that fear doesn’t win the day. Though in Herod’s fear he was beheaded, yet John was never intimidated by Herod to refrain from speaking the truth.
In John the Baptist, we see that the real fear is fear of the truth. The light and life that comes to us in Christ is terrifying to a world content in darkness. It is this kind of fear that led to John’s — and countless martyrs’ after him — imprisonment and death. Yet because of the light and life that comes to us in Christ, these martyrs were able to overcome their own fear of death, knowing that the really frightening thing would be to allow the darkness to overcome the world. In Christ, that never happens.
Our own reflection today has to be a reflection on where the fear is. Are we afraid of some truth in our world or in our life? If so, we must put that fear to death and shine the light of Christ on it. Our we afraid of the impact our witness to Christ may have in our world? If so, we must put that fear to death and pin our hope on the life that only Christ can bring.
Blessed St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who points to Christ and shares in Christ’s own suffering, death and resurrection! Blessed the Church for the witness of the martrys, led by St. John the Baptist!
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
for your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Yesterday I was out mowing the lawn. When I came back inside, I drank several glasses of cold, refreshing water to slake my thirst. So the image of “for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts” is one that is clear to me. And the whole idea of being “parched, lifeless and without water” is terrifying. Only in God can we find water for our thirst and only God can fill up the void that is within us. All we have to do is be away from prayer for a short time and we can find that our lives are adrift. The only way to survive is for our souls to “cling fast to” God whose right hand upholds us.
Perhaps the second reading makes it even more clear. We can be tossed about by all the philosophies and teachings of a world adrift in its search for meaning. But the only way to find rock solid truth and surety in our time is not to be conformed to this age, but to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
I don’t plan on this blog having a lot of political stuff in it. But today I’m making an exception. I went to Wal-Mart today to pick up the stuff I need to go back to school. Usually a trip like this costs me $80ish. Today’s tab: $105 … and our friends at Wal-Mart didn’t even have everything I needed.
It feels like our economy today is worse than it felt under President Reagan, which I remember as not being particularly good. Well, except for those with money to burn. This is making me yearn for the days of the elder President Bush, and that just freaks me out.