John's whole life revolved around the coming of the Messiah. Aware of his mission, he preached truth and repentance in preparation for the Messiah. But did he expect that imprisonment would bring an abrupt end to his public ministry? What did he think about being locked away in a dungeon without anyone to preach or baptize?
King Herod made a promise to grant the wish of a girl, daughter of his immoral partner, Herodias, after a splendid dance performance. Herodias, who had a grudge against John, took the opportunity to take revenge and maybe to silence John who had exposed her illicit relationship with the king. She told her daughter to ask for the head of the Baptist. Being king, Herod had no choice but to grant the girl’s wish. He commanded to behead John and his head was given to the girl.
The head of John as a gift for a dance performance? The cousin of Jesus and His precursor was beheaded for a dance? A life for a dance? Is it not too cheap a price for a life which had played a big part in God’s plan of salvation? Maybe some will see this as a waste. Maybe they will think God committed a blunder. But remember, John had fulfilled his mission. He was ready to go. But what a way to go?
Did he deserve it or not? That maybe is a question. There were other ways to die. Unfortunately, circumstances led to this kind of death. But more important than the kind of death is reason for the death. John died because he was brave enough to expose what the king was doing. If only for that, it was worth it no matter how they did it or the circumstances in which he was beheaded.
We cannot choose the way we would die. But we can choose how to live our lives. We can also choose the reason for living. God, who created us, had a purpose for us. Living that purpose is the way and reason for living. Hopefully, we agree to that purpose and live our lives accordingly. John did!
It must have been a time of intense prayer and reflection for John while he was in prison. Perhaps he would have liked to have said to us today: "Despite the dark times, I knew God's voice and was certain that He was good. I knew that I was in His hands. Don't fear your circumstances, no matter how trapped you may feel in darkness and evil. You are not alone.”
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.