Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Passion of St. John the Baptist

On June 24, we celebrated the birthday of St. John the Baptist; on August 29, we honor the anniversary of his martyrdom, also known as the Passion of St. John the Baptist.

After he had baptized Jesus, John the Baptist began to condemn Herod Antipas, the governor of Galilee.  John had the courage to confront Herod and condemn him for the scandal of his illegal union with his sister-in-law Herodias, whose husband was still alive.  John the Baptist stated, "It is not lawful for you to have her."  With those words, Herod threw him into prison.

Not only did Herod fear John and his disciples, he also knew that he was a virtuous man, so he did not kill him. However, Herodias was determined to bring about John's death so she contrived a plot to do just that.  Herod gave an eloquent banquet to celebrate his birthday. His full court was present as well as many other powerful and influential Palestinians. Herodias's daughter Salome pleased Herod so much when she danced to entertain the company that he promised her whatever she would ask--even half of his kingdom. Salome went to her mother to ask what she should request. Herodias replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

Due to his pride, Herod, though remorseful, could not refuse the request; hence, he directed a soldier of the guard to behead John in prison.  John’s head was placed on a platter and taken to Salome, who delivered it to her mother.

When John's disciples heard what had happened, they took away his body and laid it in a tomb, where he was venerated in the 4th century.

What St. John the Baptist Teaches us

St. John the Baptist stepped out boldly in faith and pointed out the truth. Sinners hate the truth. They do not want others to tell them that what they are doing is wrong because it means that they need to change their evil ways. They don't want to stop sinning because they are in love with their sin. They are comfortably attached to it and often addicted to it.

St. John the Baptist called for repentance, for conversion of heart and acceptance of God's ways. He not only spoke about penance and conversion, but he lived a very austere life. He lived off the land, eating grasshoppers and honey. He dressed in rough clothing made of camel hair. He was completely detached from the material things around him. His reason for doing this was to prepare the way for the Savior. His example of holiness encourages each of us to examine our lives both interiorly and exteriorly.

As we await Christ's final coming in the dessert of our hearts, we need to spend time in silence, to discern exactly what Christ is calling us to do in the Kingdom. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds, to enlighten us daily that we will know His will and  have the courage to carry it out in our lives. We, too, need to prepare for His coming, through fasting, prayer and penance, detaching ourselves from material things, and from the sins to which we are so selfishly attached.

Exteriorly, we are called to speak out boldly against the immoralities that occur in our world today -- abortion, euthanasia, adultery, rape, and so much more. By virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation, we have been given the graces and the gifts to act prudently and with fortitude. Like John the Baptist, through our prayer and penance, and our public witness, we, too, can prepare the way for Jesus, for ourselves and for others.

~ copyright 2016 Jean M. Heimann

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