“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” What a truly amazing Gospel we have here today. It describes the death and martyrdom of John the Baptist who occupies a number of wonderful categories which include a cousin to Jesus, the Last Prophet, and the outstanding voice that calls us all to listen and be ready for the greatest news we could ever receive. Today’s Reading makes this an even more thought-provoking Saturday, the first day of the month, as we recall how great it is to love the Lord and follow Him with every fiber of our being. John would later express this very same desire when he stated that he himself should decrease while Jesus must increase. That once we come to realize and accept our purpose here on earth, our lives will become much simpler and have the potential of even greater holiness.
“Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip.” Here we see the importance of John the Baptist’s role and that it could never be overplayed or misunderstood. His role helps to form one of the most significant members of the cloud of witnesses which helps us all to look intently at Jesus and to never let our focus stray. This Reading should remind us to give it our all, to make the extra effort to be the best that we can be to please the Lord and that we should be heartened by the fact that God always prepares a way for us to find Jesus and stay ever-so-close to Him in this life and the next. That our call should always be to let Jesus increase in our lives and for our selfishness to decrease. And with the help of the Holy Spirit and the wonderful Eucharist, success in this field can always be within our reach.
The death of John the Baptist reminds us that following the Lord also has a deep price and that sometimes people are unwilling to consider or offer. But in the final analysis, we want to be counted among those who are faithful and loving and true to our calling. And when nothing else will do: “Rescue me out of the mire; may I not sink! may I be rescued from my foes, and from the watery depths.”
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'” Erma Bombeck