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Francois Perrier, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist; National Trust, Kedleston Hall and Eastern Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-beheading-of-saint-john-the-baptist-172151
Today the Universal Church celebrates the Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist.

As the precursor to Jesus Christ, St. John the Baptist has a unique role in salvation history:  To prepare the way of the Lord, by his life and in his death.  He stands for the Way, the Truth, and the Life in which he proclaimed the coming of the long-awaited Messiah, by word and deed, to all who knew him or heard about him.

By his martyrdom we are reminded that those who boldly proclaim truth, the way, and the life of Jesus, in an increasingly hostile, beyond-secular, and post-Christian age, face the harshest forms of persecution today.  A world that denies the sacredness of human life in all its forms - even for the most vulnerable among us, the unborn child in her mother's womb - is one that will always be hostile to the message of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps such hostility is borne of discomfort - a discomfort that challenges the ego of one's self, an ego that draws in on itself, hostile to invitation to see the world through the the will of God; to see even one's own life as a life with purpose, of mission; not an accident of chance but, rather, to be all who the Author of Life created you to be.

This is God's promise to each of us.  This is God's promise to everyone living past, present, and future.  But we must be open to participate in God's promise to humanity.  We must be open to the promise of life, not just for the ego of self - the "I" - but for all.  To do so, one must let one's heart be open.  It is in this openness, no matter how small the crevice in one's heart, that the light of God can enter - and in such encounter we dare to let ourselves be transformed.

Meanwhile, Christian brothers and sisters, fellow sinners, we must not despair.  We must not tire.  We must not succumb to such a Culture of Death.  Christians know there is a response to such darkness, an answer bringing light to the world.

Therefore, be not afraid!  "I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.  In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world" (Jn 16:33).

Peace be with you!

From the Author, My Daily Bread: A Reason2bCatholic blog

Saturday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time

A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (cf. Lk 6:45) 

Gospel Reflections

LISTEN:  Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark 6:17-29

Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,“I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Beheading of St. John the Baptist by Callisto Piazza da Lodi, Accademia Venice 2016

REFLECTION: 

Saint John the Baptist, Lover of Truth

Since the spirit of the world is rooted in self-love, it seeks the truth only if it is pleasing; it stands up for religion only if religion has approving supporters; it extols virtue only where virtue is fashionable. This, unfortunately, is the spirit guiding people, a timid and conniving spirit. Some people are afraid to belong to God….

The harshest combat of all in this world is that of speaking the truth of Christ to friend and foe alike and telling it in good times and in bad, secretly and openly, to prisoners and kings, to plebeians and patricians, in private and in public, without compromises or shame, not with a fearful heart but with a sublime disregard for dangers….

This is the combat Jesus Christ referred to when he told the Roman governor: For this was I born, for this have I come into the world: to give witness to the truth. The combat Jesus received from the Father and left as a heritage to his friends is love for the truth even to the shedding of blood!…

Especially in our day, [the Church] really needs people who will bring minds back to the study of the Gospel and Christian doctrine and thus bring Christ back into our families and into society. I am personally convinced that this is the greatest need.

– Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini

Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini († 1905) was Bishop of Piacenza, Italy. [From Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini: A Living Voice: Excerpts from his Writings. © 1987, The Missionaries of Saint Charles-Scalabrinians. Oak Park, IL.], as published in Magnificat, Aug 29, 2020, https://www.magnificat.net
The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1869).

St. John the Baptist, Precursor of Jesus Christ, Martyr for Truth, pray for us.

Be not afraid!  And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.  Holy Family pray for us.  Amen.

The Holy Family, Murillo
The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities (c. 1675-82) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617 – 1682)

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