Sir 47:2-11; Ps 18:31,47,50,51; Mk 6:14-29
His promise of faithful love is fire-tried, and he is a shield for all who take refuge in him. The Lord Jesus followed the lead of his cousin, Saint John the Baptist, he suffered for proclaiming the truth without hesitation. All martyrs follow the lead of their Divine Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, they surrender their lives in witness to the Lord without hesitation. Indeed, the True and Faithful Son of David, Jesus Christ, gave great victory and showed bounteous kindness to his beloved cousin and his glorious forerunner, Saint John the Baptist. Likewise, we are his anointed and we are summoned to faithful witness, without hesitation.
King David is being sung in our first reading for mass today. He is compared to the choice fat of the sacred offerings offered upon the altars of all Israel, that part of the sacrifice that mingled with incense to make a fragrant offering to the Most High. David, in his youth played with lions and bears without fear. Even the giants of his day did not fill his heart with fear; rather, he learned from early on to place his trust in God who gave strength to his right arm. All the women sang his praises and the whole people were willing to obey their beloved King. This shepherd of Israel lead his flock into the sanctuary singing the praises of the LORD. Out of King David’s heart and in his creativity many songs we composed for the liturgy of the nation. Even after the serious sins of adultery and murder, the LORD forgave David and exalted him. It was through the royal throne of David that the LORD promised to make the Son of David the KING of Kings and the LORD of Lords. The promise to King David and his descendants becomes the promise made to all of us who seek Him, seek the face of the God of Jacob.
What kind of a sick and twisted girl would ask for someone’s head on a platter? Such horror is not limited to the past; even in our own day we hear the news of terrorist executions. Decapitation is still a favorite. Herodias, the girl’s mother, harbored a grudge against Saint John and wanted to kill him, but her desire went unfulfilled until the king made foolish oaths. Even though Herod feared Saint John because he was so upright and holy, the king did not understand the preaching of the Prophet. Herod liked to listen to Saint John, but the more he listened the more perplexed he became. He missed the beauty of the truth that the Baptist preached, but the beauty of the dance captivated the heart of the king. He wanted to honor such a beautiful display to reveal his good taste and royal dignity. However, in his foolishness, the king made a promise to do anything, whatever the girl asked. At this moment Herodias takes full advantage of her lover’s foolishness. Now, she had the power to fulfill her desire to silence the Prophet’s public criticism of her adultery. In her foolishness, she thought that having Saint John beheaded would put an end to his painful wisdom. It is the blood of the Baptist that continues to speak the truth from age to age. The witness of Saint John to the justice of God, a justice that even absolute and tyrannical rulers cannot ignore, points to the definitive truth of God’s justice in the Incarnate Word nailed to the cross out of love. The love of Christ, the Crucified, is prefigured in the self-sacrifice of Saint John. As we hear the account of the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist and celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Agatha, we catch a glimpse of the wisdom and strength from on high, in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the King of Martyrs, and the LORD of Life.