Tuesday (August 29): "Herod feared John - a righteous and holy man"

Meditation:  Are you prepared to be a witness, and if necessary, a martyr for Jesus Christ? John the Baptist bridged the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets who pointed the way to the Messiah. He is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. Jesus equated the coming of his kingdom with violence. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force (Matthew 11:12). John suffered violence for announcing that the kingdom of God was near. He was thrown into prison and then beheaded.

Whose pleasure do you seek?
King Herod, the most powerful and wealthy man in Judea, had everything he wanted, except a clear conscience and peace with God. Herod had respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet and servant of God. John, however did not fear to rebuke Herod for his adulterous relationship with his brother's wife. John ended up in prison because of Herodias' jealousy. Herod, out of impulse and a desire to please his family and friends, had John beheaded.

Why did Herod put John to death when he knew him to be a righteous and holy man? Herod's power and influence were badly flawed. He was more bent on pleasing others and making friends than on doing what was right and just in the sight of God. He could take a strong stand on the wrong things when he knew the right. Such a stand, however, was a sign of weakness and cowardice.

God is our help and our strength 
Where do you get the strength of will and heart to choose what is right and to reject what is wrong and sinful? The Lord Jesus gives strength and courage to those who humbly acknowledge their dependence on him. The Lord knows our weaknesses better than we do. He pardons and heals those who ask for his mercy and forgiveness. In whatever situation we find ourselves the Lord is there to guide and direct us. Do you seek the Lord's strength and wisdom? Ask with expectant faith and trust in the Lord's help and grace.

The love of Christ is stronger than death
Since the martyrdom of John the Baptist to the present time, the kingdom of God has suffered violence and persecution at the hands of violent people. The blood of Christian martyrs throughout the ages bear witness to this fact. Their testimony to the truth of the Gospel and their willingness to suffer and die for their faith prove victory rather than defeat for the kingdom of God. What fuels their faith and courage in the face of suffering, persecution, and death? They know and believe with the "eyes of faith" that nothing in this present world can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).

Power to witness the love and mercy of Jesus Christ
What gives us the power, boldness, and courage to witness to Jesus Christ and to the truth of the Gospel? The Holy Spirit fills us with courage, love, and boldness to make Jesus Christ known and loved. We do not need to fear those who oppose the Gospel, because the love of Jesus Christ is stronger than fear and death itself. His love conquers all, even our fears and timidity in the face of opposition and persecution. We can trust in his grace and help at all times. Are you ready to make the Lord Jesus known and loved, and if necessary to suffer for his sake and the sake of the Gospel? Ask the Lord Jesus to fill you with the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

"Lord Jesus Christ, give me faith, boldness, and courage to stand firm in the truth of the Gospel and to not waver in my testimony of your love and mercy. Give me hope and joy in the promise of everlasting life with you in your kingdom."


This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/