|Memorial of the Martydom of
St. John the Baptist
Psalm 98:1, 7-8, 9
Today’s readings are fodder for a meditation upon fear and faith.
Amazing! Although John the Baptist suffers a grisly fate, Herod is
the one to be pitied.
Herod’s life is driven by fear. He fears John. He fears the
low opinion of others. That is why, in spite of what is in his heart,
he permits the death of John. What a miserable way to live!
And what drives John? A powerful passion for God, for truth, for us.
What unbounded strength there is in that!
The Baptist is the bridge between the Old and the New Testament, the last
of the Old Testament prophets, the precursor of Jesus. Why should we
heed John’s exhortation, or the exhortation in today’s first reading, to live
according to moral principle?
Is it because God is vengeful? I don’t think so. That’s being
driven by fear. It is because we were made to love, honor and reverence
God, in all we say and do. If we succeed in that, even once for every
thousand failures, God’s purpose for us is fulfilled. God promises to
us eternal life with him. Next to that, the manner of John’s death –
however terrible in our eyes – is insignificant.
When my life is fear-filled, I seek security in popularity, reputation,
possessions, natural talents. Like Herod, it is too much for me to
heed the dictates of my own heart. Fear drives me to play to the crowd.
Such a fear-filled life is an endless, fruitless quest for a peaceful heart.
When my life is faith-filled, there is no room for fear. With my focus
on God and God’s glory, there is no need to live for impression. Without
question, John suffered a brutal and unjust death. But his heart was
at peace, at peace with the Lord.