Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

1Cor 1:26-31; Ps 33:12,13,18-21; Mk 6:17-29

Without trust there is no intimacy and very little relationship.  Psalm 33 celebrates the trust of the Chosen People.  The people God has chosen for his own inheritance is truly a blessed nation.  It is from heaven that the LORD looks down upon all mankind, but his gaze of tender mercy is upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness.  They have been delivered from death and preserved in the time of famine.  Israel has been rescued again and again; she has countless reasons to trust the LORD at all times.  Indeed her soul waits for the LORD, who is her help and her shield.  In the Holy Name of the LORD Israel places her trust and in him all hearts rejoice.  Saint Paul calls his brothers and sisters in Corinth to boast in the Lord Jesus.  Though they seem foolish and insignificant to the powers that be, for them the Lord Jesus has become wisdom from On High.  In today’s parable the Lord Jesus reveals the joy of those who trust in him and are willing to risk everything for the benefit of the Kingdom.  Here we renew our trust in the Lord Jesus who becomes our Daily Bread.

Saint Paul invites his beloved brothers and sisters to consider their call.  He points out a socio-economic reality that could apply to many churches even today.  Few of us are wise by the standards of our world.  Not many of us have a great claim on economic or political power.  Probably the number of noble births is even lower today, unless one considers entertainment nobility.  God chose the foolish of this world to shame the wise, and He chose the weak of the world to shame the strong.  Those considered lowly and despised of this world, those who count for nothing, were chosen to reduce to nothing those who are something.  The LORD has done all this to reveal that no human being can boast before God.  One bold critic of Mother Teresa of Calcutta claimed that she spent her life manipulating public opinion by using the poorest of the poor to make herself look good.  A critic of the critic responded with this challenge, “Just try to live the way she did for one year and see how long you could take it.”  The truth silenced the lie.  Indeed, it is Christ Jesus who is for us true wisdom of God.  He is our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption so that we might make our boast in the Lord.  This is our calling to reveal the wisdom of God in a life of self-sacrifice and compassion.  Indeed, this is our true dignity.

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 reflect upon the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist we catch a glimpse of the wisdom and strength from on high, in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.