Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we commemorate a great feast in our faith, that is the Passion of St. John the Baptist, when he died in the prison of King Herod because of his uprightness, his faith, and his courage. St. John the Baptist, as we all know, is a relative to Jesus, the son of Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, the Mother of our Lord. He was the one to open the way for Christ and straighten His path in this world.
St. John the Baptist was a truly upright man, who followed the Lord faithfully even unto his suffering and death. He was not even afraid of chastising a king, scolding him for having improper relationship with his brother’s wife, Herodias. He suffered prison, but he did not fear. He had also suffered rejection, mockery, and doubt, by the Pharisees and the chief priests, who disliked whatever he was doing when he baptised many people in the Jordan, and even questioned his authority.
He stood up courageously and rebuked them as an evil nest of vipers, just as he had in the same way rebuked Herod and his new wife. He feared not human hatred nor opposition, because to Him, it is the love of God that truly mattered to him. His death is part of the Lord’s plan for salvation, that his work in preparing the way for the Lord was then complete, having initiated our Lord Jesus through His baptism at the Jordan, marking the formal beginning of the Lord’s ministry on earth.
St. John the Baptist took his ministry seriously and dutifully, and he truly loved God and was glad of the part he had done in the Lord’s plan of salvation. When Jesus’ ministry began and many people began to come to Jesus instead of John, he was happy and slowly and quietly drifting away into nothingness, while still doing whatever he could to the people who came to him, and directed them to Christ the Lord. He showed true humility, unlike the Pharisees and the chief priests who viewed both him and Jesus as threats to their teaching authority.
Today we are reminded, and indeed urged to do more good and less of the vices, things abhorred in the eyes of the Lord our God. We are urged to follow the examples of St. John the Baptist while keeping away from the vices of Herod and Herodias, wicked people in the eyes of God. Yet, it is very natural for all of us to follow the path of Herod rather than that of John. Why is it so, brothers and sisters? Precisely because we all are weak, weak to sin, open to sin, and vulnerable to sin.
It is most likely that Herodias, even after she was widowed by Philip, the brother of Herod, remained very attractive and beautiful, and that was what attracted Herod to his own brother’s wife, even though as king, he could have had many women as his partner, he chose to follow his urges and desires and chose Herodias. The same can be said of Herodias, the wife. She certainly craved power and authority and wealth that only a king could muster, and that was why she was complicit in the improper relations between her and Herod, her husband’s brother.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are reminded today of the unjust death of St. John the Baptist, messenger of God and the one who prepared the way before the Lord, that we too should be upright, just, and truthful in our lives, in all our words, actions, deeds, and dealings with others, and not be led by our human emotions and even less so to fall into the temptations of the devil and embrace them.
We must not let ourselves be swayed like Herod had done, in promising even up to half of his kingdom to the daughter of Herodias, just because he was fascinated by her and her dance. Lust, passion, and desire can indeed bring us to destruction, just as it had done to Herod. Herod killed the messenger of God, John the Baptist, and therefore incurred for certainty, the eternal wrath of God, all because of the vow he made to the daughter of Herodias, words that came out of desire and lust, which later on came back to haunt him.
Let us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, follow the example of John, that we will be ever courageous to stand up for our faith, to stand up for what we believe in, to be faithful defenders of the Lord in our increasingly hostile world. Let us not be afraid of saying the truth and live an upright life just as John had done. Guard our emotions and have a strong and healthy prayer life, that the devil will not be able to enter into our hearts and corrupt them, as he had done to Herod.
John showed his disciples that Christ is the Lamb of God, and therefore, today he too showed us to Christ, as the pathway and the only door to salvation. Let us be faithful to Christ our Lord, and be inspired by John His servant and messenger, and let us also adopt his humility, in not seeking human glory and human praise, but seeking the greater glory and praise in God instead. Let us strive to love God more by acting on His will, and do as He wants us, that is to love Him with all our strength and our being, and to give ourselves in love to our brethren, especially those who are unloved, those who are lonely, and those who are abandoned. May God bless us all. Amen.