2 Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18
Ps 128:1-2, 4-5
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.
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.
Good News Reflection: Why doesn’t God protect us from all harm?
In today’s Gospel reading, God fails to protect John the Baptist. Was it because John didn’t pray for protection? He probably did! So why was he killed if not because God abandoned him? Perhaps he had strayed from God’s will? No. Herod killed him while John was doing the Lord’s work.
Based on this, we might surmise that working for God is not safe. It sure seems so whenever we take an unpopular stand on the truth. And I could tell you lots of personal stories about sufferings that happen because of my commitment to work deeply in ministry, which I’m pretty sure are temptations to quit doing ministry. (Don’t worry; such temptations only drive me to work for God with greater determination.)
I can imagine myself marching up to Almighty God, hands on my hips, saying, “Well? How about it? Why didn’t you protect me from ___ and ___? Where were you? How can you promise protection and then let me down? What do You have to say for Yourself, huh?”
However, as in every struggle, every persecution, and every emotional or spiritual earthquake, we have to humbly assume that there’s something about the Bigger Picture that we can’t yet see, something we can’t yet understand. Eventually, in this life or the next, God will reveal it and we will go, “Ahhhhhhhhh.” And John the Baptist in heaven will nod his head and say, “It was all worth it.” And we will agree.
In the meantime, instead of asking “Where are You, God? Why are You letting this happen to me?” we should ask, “Which is more important: protection from suffering or doing what God wants me to do for the sake of the salvation of others?” (Note: I am not suggesting that we allow an abusive person to continue suppressing us; such abuse must be stopped or fled; we’re helping no one if we allow it to continue.)
Another way to word this question is: “Which is more important: my physical comfort or the world’s spiritual discomfort?”
Let’s be honest. We prefer to feel comfortable. We avoid situations that might result in persecution. We tend to be people-pleasers instead of God-pleasers, so that others will like us and approve of us.
Ever since I gave my heart to the Catholic Church in 1977, I’ve devoted my daily life to working for Christ’s kingdom on earth. Could I not also devote my sufferings and even my death to his kingdom? I pray that God will grant me the opportunity, even in death, to help others discover the fullness of his love, and I pray that, until then, I will be filled with his grace so that I can ignore my desire to be comfortable.
If you make a similar request, you’ll discover that your life is much more meaningful and your death — even if it’s by martyrdom — is no longer fearsome.
I praise You and thank You, Lord Jesus, because You spared nothing to save us and to give us abundant life. I want to receive this gift with all my heart! Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica