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Is This Worth It?

  • February 5, 2021 (readings)
  • Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr
  • Lisa Small
  • Mark 6:14-29

    King Herod heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” 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. Herodias 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’s 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.

    Opening Prayer:

    O breathe on me, O Breath of God,

    Fill me with life anew,

    That I may love the things you love,

    And do what you would do.

     

    O breathe on me, O Breath of God,

    Until my heart is pure;

    Until my will is one with yours,

    To do and to endure.

     

    O breathe on me, O Breath of God,

    My will to yours incline,

    Until this selfish part of me

    Glows with your fire divine.

     

    O breathe on me, O Breath of God,

    So I shall never die,

    But live with you the perfect life

    For all eternity.

     

    Hymn by Edwin Hatch (1878)

    Encountering Christ:

    1. The Mind of John: John’s whole life had been centered around the mystery of the coming of the Messiah. He knew what his mission was—to pave the way for the Messiah and preach truth and repentance. But had he expected his public ministry would come to an abrupt end with his imprisonment? Was he prepared to be locked away in a dungeon with no one to baptize or preach to? That time in the prison was likely a time of darkness where John had plenty of time to think and reflect on his life and his brief experience with Jesus. Had he heard the call of God clearly? Would he be abandoned by God here in the prison cell? Maybe the Lord would come to rescue him from prison, like the Scripture about the Messiah in Isaiah: “the captives will be set free” (Isaiah 61:1). Would Herod convert and change his ways? Was all that he had done for the coming kingdom worth it or was it to no avail? Yet, day after day passed, as he was held captive to the whims of an unpredictable leader, waiting to see how the plan of God would unfold in his life.

    2. The Thoughts of Jesus: When his cousin, John the Baptist first began his public ministry, Jesus saw his Father’s hand in ushering in his own public ministry. This meant leaving the warmth and love of his mother and home in Nazareth to begin the three-year journey, toward the culmination of his life poured out on the cross. In many ways, Jesus knew that John would not only pave the way, but that John would also foreshadow the path of suffering at the hands of men who would take his life. Like John, Jesus would spend time in prison, alone and abandoned. He too would be sentenced to death by an arbitrary command of a human leader. He too would shed his blood in a seemingly useless and inglorious death. John would go before Jesus in all things. As Jesus united his heart in prayer to John in the prison, was it not a consolation to know that Jesus had a friend and companion in this journey and that he too was not alone?

    3. John’s Message to Me: John’s time in prison must have been an intense time of prayer and reflection. Maybe he would want to have said this to us today: “While that time was dark and full of uncertainty, I knew the voice of God and was certain that he was good. I knew that I was in his hands. Do not fear your circumstances, no matter how trapped you may feel in darkness and evil. You are not alone. Is this not the path of a disciple of Jesus? Did he not promise us the cross as our companion on the journey? And is it not the noblest and most beautiful thing we can do, to unite to Our Lord in his own passage of death, to the fullness of glory in his resurrection? I died for Jesus. And in many ways, I died with him, for love of him and in glory to the Father.”

    Conversing with Christ: Lord, how easily I reject the cross in my life and think I am doing something wrong when people dismiss me or refuse to see the goodness and truth I seek to live. Allow me to know that when I embrace these moments, I console your heart as I somehow unite in friendship to you and your own journey. Give me the courage and trust of John the Baptist, to speak about you no matter what comes.

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine my circumstances to see how I can surrender and embrace them with greater confidence in you.

    For Further Reflection: Reflect and pray with the words from today’s first reading, Hebrews 13:1-8, as possible thoughts and reflections on the heart of John the Baptist: Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body. Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers. Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.” Thus we may say with confidence: “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


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