Mark’s Gospel account of what led to John the Baptist’s beheading is like an older version of some of our current entertainment. There’s the powerful man who commits adultery and incest by marrying his brother’s wife, who also happens to be his niece. Then there is John the Baptist, who not only calls Herod to repentance but also intrigues and perplexes him.
Then there’s the catalyst for this murder, Herodias, the wife of Herod, who we can also assume felt the weight of John’s words but, instead of discernment and conversion of her life, used her own daughter to entrap her husband in a plot to kill John the Baptist.
Given the fact that we all face challenging family situations, it would be easy to conclude that it doesn’t pay to try to convert people who are in grave sin, some of whose souls are in danger of eternal life separated from God. I believe this is why, in addition to the example of John’s integrity of faith and love for his fellow man, we also need to reflect on the words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.
In his recap of trying to establish a church in Philippi, Paul tells of how, after they had suffered at the hands of the people that they wished to help, they “… drew courage through God to speak the Gospel (of God) with much struggle.”
Notice Paul doesn’t say that just because they prayed, everything was easy from that point forward. In reality, when they spoke out against a profitable slave trade business and other sins, they were accused of disturbing the peace, arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. Yet they persevered for God and those souls.
Preaching the Gospel
There’s another source of wisdom for us in Paul’s letter, and it is how they preached the Gospel message.
First, their motives were rooted in leading others to God and all that this offers in life.
Secondly, they taught without deception or delusion while seeking to please God and not man.
Finally, they didn’t speak with words of flattery but with true affection and gentleness, sharing not only the Gospel but themselves in the process.
Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “We need more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper names … without yielding to convenient compromise to the temptation of self-deception.”
Today’s saint, John the Baptist, and the Word of God, remind and challenge us to stand up against evil, to act with pure intentions, and to hold together a courageous and gentle approach to those we wish to help. As John the Baptist knew and St. Paul preaches to us, it is not easy; but with God, we draw strength, wisdom, and gentleness to speak the truth in love.
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About Father David Marcham
Reverend David S. Marcham is the Vice Postulator for the Cause of Venerable Patrick Peyton, and Director of the Father Peyton Guild, whose members pray for Father Peyton’s beatification and spread his message of the importance of Family Prayer. Prior to becoming a seminarian, Father David was a physical therapist and clinical instructor, serving hospital inpatients and outpatients throughout the greater Boston area for eleven years. In 1998 he heard the call to priesthood and was ordained in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2005. Father David grew up in Quincy, MA, and has fond memories of playing soccer, tennis and running track. You’re never without a friend when Father David is around, as he welcomes everyone into his circle with a smile on his face!