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A Modern Martyrdom

First Reading: Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24

The priests and prophets said to the princes and to all the people,
“This man deserves death;
he has prophesied against this city,
as you have heard with your own ears.”
Jeremiah gave this answer to the princes and all the people:
“It was the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and city
all that you have heard.
Now, therefore, reform your ways and your deeds;
listen to the voice of the LORD your God,
so that the LORD will repent of the evil with which he threatens you.
As for me, I am in your hands;
do with me what you think good and right.
But mark well: if you put me to death,
it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves,
on this city and its citizens.
For in truth it was the LORD who sent me to you,
to speak all these things for you to hear.”

Thereupon the princes and all the people
said to the priests and the prophets,
“This man does not deserve death;
it is in the name of the LORD, our God, that he speaks to us.”

So Ahikam, son of Shaphan, protected Jeremiah,
so that he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 69:15-16, 30-31, 33-34

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Rescue me out of the mire; may I not sink!
may I be rescued from my foes,
and from the watery depths.
Let not the flood-waters overwhelm me,
nor the abyss swallow me up,
nor the pit close its mouth over me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Gospel: Matthew 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.

NAB

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After reading today’s passages, I considered what to reflect upon—Saint John’s fearlessness and hard core devotion to God or perhaps Herod’s cowardice. I could reflect on the theme of persecution and the beatitude: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”

However, none of these are grabbing me. Instead my heart keeps going back to the Responsorial Psalm.

“Lord, in your great love, answer me. But I am afflicted and in pain; let your saving help, O God, protect me. I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving. Lord, in your great love, answer me.”

I can’t focus on anything but these words because right now I feel afflicted and in pain. It seems that wherever I turn someone I care about is suffering—my mom is fighting cancer, a friend lost her baby, another friend lost a family member, numerous friends are carrying heavy crosses. Violence is all over the news. At the moment, it just feels a little overwhelming.

But it is times like these when our faith is put to the test. We may not have someone like Herod threatening to cut off our heads but we all have situations when our faith is seriously tested. Sometimes we are being persecuted for our beliefs and how we live our Catholic faith by coworkers, acquaintances or even family members. Sometimes we are faced with a heavy cross and we have to decide if we will let grief or anger consume us or if we will be brave and humble enough to lay it at the feet of Christ and breathe in the words, Jesus, I trust in you, and continue to glorify God despite what is happening around us.

Living a life of surrender and trust in God is its own form of martyrdom—a martyrdom of our wills so that we more fully embrace the path God has laid before us.

If today you are feeling the weight of something that is troubling you, recall the words of the Psalm, “See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive!”

Seek God and He will revive your heart. He will strengthen your spirit and bring you peace and comfort. You are not alone.

Are you carrying a cross? Close your eyes and speak to God from your heart. Let Him refresh your spirit and comfort you. Reach out to a friend and ask them to pray with you. Or if you know of someone else who is hurting, reach out to them and be a source of God’s mercy and love.

photo credit

Bobbi Rol is a wife, a mama of four and a blogger learning to love God in the midst of dishes, laundry and swinging light sabers. You can find out more about her here.

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