Beheading of St.John the Baptist
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Mark 6: 17-29
Today we commemorate the death of John the Baptist. John was the last prophet to herald the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah and the first martyr for the Good News. As Jesus’ cousins, they would have played and learnt their Torah together as children. As an adult, he baptised Jesus in the River Jordan. His gruesome death was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own crucifixion.
John’s reputation for speaking the truth, for his call to a baptism of repentance, his austere lifestyle in the desert and his proclamation that Jesus must increase and he (John) must diminish (John 3:30) were his hallmark characteristics.
Herod was in awe of John as he saw him as a ‘good and upright man’ (Mk 6:20). Despite John chastising him about his marriage to Herodias, he was fascinated by him. Herodias, on the other hand, was enraged by John and wanted him dead. In the end, despite his good intentions to protect John, Herod was weak. Herod’s bravado to give his step-daughter whatever she desired in front of distinguished guests was reckless, and when faced with the choice of rejecting her request for the head of John on a dish, he capitulated so as not to lose face.
The truth has the ability to draw people to itself and, at the same time to cause others to turn away from it. When faced with the truth, which way do I turn? Do I seek it more and more, or do I run away from it? Does it’s light cause me to grow or to fall away and die?
The spiritual battle between good and evil still endures. Today people around the world continue to be persecuted, and many are martyred for their faith, be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu. Other injustices include wrongful imprisonment, modern-day slavery and the trafficking of innocent people, including young children. None of this can ever be seen to be right. Even though the silencing of the good may seem to ‘work’, the truth will ultimately win as Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). John paid the ultimate price for his faith in his cousin, Jesus, whom he proclaimed as our saviour of the world. Would you do the same?
Victoria Raw is parishioner of Te Whetu O Te Moana, Star of the Sea Marlborough, NZ and is active in lay ministry.