“Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart, and yield a harvest through perseverance.” This is truly an amazing Gospel that we have today. It describes the death and martyrdom of John the Baptist who occupies a number of wonderful categories including cousin to Jesus, the last prophet and outstanding voice that calls us all to listen and be ready for the greatest news we could ever receive. The Readings make this an even more thought-provoking Friday 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. Once we come to realize and accept our purpose here on earth, our lives are much simpler and have the potential of even greater holiness.
“Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The place of John the Baptist could never be overplayed or misunderstood. He forms one of the most significant members of the cloud of witnesses that helps us all look intently at Jesus and never let that focus stray. For the many of us who are giving all we have to be the best we can be and please the Lord, we are heartened by the fact that God always prepares the way for us to find Jesus and stay ever-so-close to Him in this life and the next. Our call is to let Jesus increase in our lives and our selfishness decrease. With the help of the Holy Spirit and the wonderful Eucharist, success in this field is within our reach. The death of John the Baptist reminds us that following the Lord also has a deep price 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. Nothing else will do: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?”
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