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!