August 29, 2019 – The Passion of John the Baptist
A reading from the Gospel according to Mark (6:17-29)
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.
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.”
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.
The Gospel told us about this story on how John was beheaded. Thus, today, the Church remembers the passion of St. John the Baptist.
It was through the daughter of Herodias who danced before King Herod that the head of the prophet was requested. King Herod and Herodias, the wife of his brother, had an adulterous relationship. Even though everybody knew about this but no one would like to speak about it. The scandal and immorality of Herod and Herodias was as bright as the sun, but every one was afraid to look at it or even speak about it.
It was only John the Baptist who spoke about it and reminded King Herod for breaking God’s law. John spoke against it even though the rest chose to remain silent. He chose to look at it and confront it even though many pretended not to see it. John being a chosen prophet of God, had been really true to his identity. John was a real troublemaker and a “disturbance to Israel” because he disturbed the conscience of Herod and the conscience of the people.
Consequently, being a prophet, by speaking out the truth and disturbing the conscience of the people, he was silenced by those who hated him. In the end, he was beheaded.
Like most of the people at that time of John the Baptist, many times we find ourselves choosing to remain silent and not to speak out about the truth. We too find ourselves to pretend not to see the scandal and feel indifferent about it.
There are reasons of course why we do this. To be an honest person is difficult. A friend once shared to me. His conscience has been disturbed because of the corrupt practices in their office. Yet, he found it difficult to confront the people doing such corruption because almost everyone does it and their senior officers seemed to tolerate such practice. In speaking out, he thought, he might lose his job. So he remained silent about it and choose to be indifferent.
Hence, we chose not to stand or to speak up because we are afraid that we might lose our job, our career, our position and influence, our name or our life. We are afraid because we might lose the comforts and the peace that we seemed to be enjoying. Moreover, we also choose to remain silent because we ourselves are guilty. It is indeed a risky thing to do and we dare not to take the risk.
However, having such attitude is not what God wants us to be. God calls us to be honest even if others are not, to speak even if others would remain silent, to see even if others would tend not to see.
Thus, through the inspiration of John the Baptist, we may find courage when it becomes difficult for us to live faithfully our Christian life. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR