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Being Who You Are Called to Be

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

First Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

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: Psalm 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.

Gospel: 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.

NAB

aug 29

Two things stand out to me in today’s readings for the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, the first being how King Herod felt about John:

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.

King Herod knew that Saint John was a righteous man, and that he was speaking truth. But the truth put King Herod into a funny position. If he listened to Saint John, he would have to completely change his life. He would have to admit that he was wrong, and give up the women that he had taken as a wife from his own brother. He was stuck, and he was very attached to the life that he had, and because of this he was forced to kill a man who he knew to be holy and righteous.

But Saint John stands in great contrast to King Herod as he waited patiently in prison, and died a martyr’s death for the truth.

It is as if his life and death were embodied by the words of Saint Paul in today’s First Reading:

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.

Everything that Saint John did pointed to God; he was completely weak before his creator, from his leaping and sanctification in the womb at the Visitation to his humble death in prison. He knew that he was a mere man, an instrument of his creator. He was not afraid to live a radical life for the sake of the conversion of others. He knew who he was called to be and was not afraid to live it.

And he saw that despite all the good that he did, he was still not worthy. For he said, I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie, (John 1:26-27) and, He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30.)

Where do we stand in relation to our Creator? Are we living the life we are meant to live, or are our worldly attachments or the situations in our life make it hard for us to make the change to be like Saint John? What do you choose everyday: God or the comfortable sins to which you are accustomed? Are you sitting perplexed by the truth or ready to decrease your desires in life so that the Christ in you may increase?

photo credit

Susanna Spencer once studied theology and philosophy, but now happily cares for her three adorable little girls, new baby boy, and her dear husband in Saint Paul. She loves beautiful liturgies, cooking delicious meals, baking amazing sweets, reading good books, raising her children, casually following baseball, and talking to her philosopher husband. You can find out more about her here.

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