"He who wishes for anything but Christ, does not know what he wishes; he who asks for anything but Christ, does not know what he is asking; he who works, and not for Christ, does not know what he is doing." — St. Philip Neri
MEDITATION OF THE DAY "Think, dear friends, how the Lord continually proves to us that there will be a resurrection to come, of which he made the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising him from the dead. Contemplate the resurrection that is always going on. Day and night declare the resurrection to us. The night sinks to sleep, and the day rises; the day departs, and the night comes on. Look at the crops, how the grain is sown: the sower goes out and throws it on the ground, and the scattered seed, dry and bare when it fell on the ground, is gradually dissolved. Then out of its disintegration the mighty power of the Lord's providence raises it up again, and from one seed come many bearing fruit." — St. Clement, p. 9 AN EXCERPT FROM A Year with the Church Fathers
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Martyrdom of John the Baptist
The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom. The "voice crying in the desert" did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth. But why? What possesses a man that he would give up his very life?
This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah. His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh. "I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11). Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: "The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God.' The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus" (John 1:35-37). It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ. John's life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God's grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.
Each of us has a calling to which we must listen. No one will ever repeat the mission of John, and yet all of us are called to that very mission. It is the role of the Christian to witness to Jesus. Whatever our position in this world, we are called to be disciples of Christ. By our words and deeds, others should realize that we live in the joy of knowing that Jesus is Lord. We do not have to depend upon our own limited resources, but can draw strength from the vastness of Christ's saving grace.
"So they came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.' John answered and said, 'No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease'" (John 3:26–30).
To be present is to arrive as one is and open up to the other. At this instant, as I arrive here, God is present waiting for me. God always arrives before me, desiring to connect with me even more than my most intimate friend. I take a moment and greet my loving God.
Lord, you created me to live in freedom. Mostly I take this gift for granted. Inspire me to live in the freedom you intended, with a heart untroubled and with complete trust in You.
In God's loving presence I unwind the past day, starting from now and looking back, moment by moment. I gather in all the goodness and light, in gratitude. I attend to the shadows and what they say to me, seeking healing, courage, forgiveness.
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102 R. (97) Lord, I love your commands. How I love your law, O LORD! It is my meditation all the day.
R. Lord, I love your commands. Your command has made me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
R. Lord, I love your commands. I have more understanding than all my teachers when your decrees are my meditation.
R. Lord, I love your commands. I have more discernment than the elders, because I observe your precepts.
R. Lord, I love your commands. From every evil way I withhold my feet, that I may keep your words.
R. Lord, I love your commands. From your ordinances I turn not away, for you have instructed me.
R. Lord, I love your commands. Alleluia Mt 5:10 R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mk 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.
Some thoughts on today's scripture
It's a really horrible scene portrayed for us here by Mark. It opens with the totally corrupt Herod at a royal banquet. We can only imagine the sumptuousness of the feast and the entertainments laid on. And then through his selfish cupidity he is cornered into taking the life of John, the outspoken Baptist and adding that horror to the entertainments of the evening. Nothing is sacred to this king.
Contrast this with the quiet humility of John's disciples who mercifully look after his body and honour it with burial. What a sorrowful and humble group they appear as they bring some humanity to this awful scene.
We know this affected Jesus deeply. Does it bring to mind any situations that you know?
Sometimes I wonder what I might say if I were to meet you in person Lord. I think I might say "Thank You Lord" for always being there for me. I know with certainty there were times when you carried me, Lord. When it was through your strength I got through the dark times in my life.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
. . . so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5)
The apostle Paul was a bright, persuasive and well-read expert in Jewish theology. He may have had his flaws, but he was still one of the most influential men in the early Church. The Corinthian church, a growing and thriving community, testified to the work of this great "apostle to the Gentiles" (Roman 11:13). Yet Paul was always careful to emphasize that the Church was built "on the power of God," not on his wisdom or the wisdom of any other apostle.
Like St. Paul, we, too, are called to build the Church. And like St. Paul, we are called to build on the foundation of God's wisdom and power, not our own. Does that mean that we shouldn't try to be dynamic and engaging as we spread the good news? Of course not! We should do whatever it takes and use whatever tools are available to us to present the gospel. That's what it means to become "all things to all, to save at least some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).
The point isn't what you can or cannot do. You don't need a particular skill set to succeed as a witness to the Lord. You don't have to look impressive or feel strong and energetic. All you have to do is listen to the Holy Spirit and try your best to follow his guidance.
The best way to become an effective sharer of the gospel is to sit quietly with the Lord in prayer every day. Set aside your concerns; focus on Jesus, his kingdom, and his goal of bringing people to heaven. Ask the Spirit to teach you the best ways to witness and share your faith. Then, take some steps during the day to act on what you think God has said. Remember: the most important thing is not what we do, but how we put our hope in the power of God to work through us.
"Holy Spirit, I want to follow your lead. Show me what you want me to do today, so that I might make way for your power to be seen in this world."
The Word of the Lord came to us today "I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God." Proverbs 3:5 says "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." We prayed the Psalms "Lord, I love your commands. Your command has made me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me." The love of the law of the Lord makes us wiser than our enemies. Do you love the law of the Lord? Or do you want it out of your life? In comes Herodias, whom desired the truth out of her life. Saint John the Baptist was the last of the greatest of prophets, a martyr for the faith, and His faith in the Lord. Was he the first to die, to give up their earthly life for the Lord? No. From Matthew 2:16 "Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi." These innocents had died because of the Lord. Saints without even asking to be. Saints without even choosing to be. And the Saints are with the Lord...forever. Nowadays, there's much to reflect on such a mystery. Nowadays, there are churches saying you have to grow up and then choose. But as Jewish boys go, they are presented to the temple at various stages of life to the Lord, offered to the Lord. As Catholics boys and girls go, we are presented to the Lord in the temple as babies. We have no reason to grow up to choose the Lord if the Lord chooses us to be His. Rely not on your own understanding. Why do you have to understand everything of God? Why not rely solely on Him who provides the world for you? Why do you have to understand death and violence? Why do you have to understand evil? Why don't you rather understand the love of GOD? Why don't you rather choose to focus all your life, learning, and living the love of GOD? There's one way out of this world...and it is through Him, and His way.
Saint John was called to be a saint by His being chosen and lived out that life of being chosen. You very well have a choice, don't you? Choose life. Choose life from natural conception, to natural death. Stand up for what is right, and what is right is life, especially a life with GOD, who gave up His life on earth to be with you forever. I have a personal testimony, and this is why I write daily. Yesterday, as I was going to receive the Lord after confessing before Mass, it was striking my soul...this white martyrdom is not easy, it is easier to take a bullet for the Lord for my faith than to live my life daily as a Saint, chosen one of God. It is a daily battle, and struggle, and at times, seems impossible. And so, I find myself being encouraged and in being so I find myself encouraging others. I want you to be a saint. I want us to be saints.
Saint John did both. Like Saint Max Kolbe, who the Mother of God appeared to Him as a youth and asked, "which crown would you like, the white of purity, or the red of martyrdom?" and Max stepped up to the plate..."I WANT BOTH"