Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 29th, 2011
Edward Morse

School of Law
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The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
[431] 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Psalm 96:1+3, 4-5, 11-12, 13
Luke 4:16-30

Today is the memorial of the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist.   This event has captured the imagination of many artists who have portrayed aspects of this story on canvas.  Herod’s folly at the hands of his clever and vindictive wife and her conspiring daughter presents a tragic story that resonates with us on many levels. 

Herod’s attitude toward John resembles our own attitude toward the church at times. Sometimes we may want to change our lives to follow its teachings, but we are just not able to overcome the inertia that binds us to the current order. So we choose to live in tension, declaring a fragile and temporary truce with our consciences.  But our consciences don’t always abide by this truce, and the tension persists.  This is really a good thing, as it is a sign that God is working in us. 

Herod’s temporary truce was disrupted when temptation came knocking. Someone once said that opportunity may knock once, but temptation keeps knocking every day.  Shouldn’t we expect it when it comes calling so often? In a moment of weakness, Herod is trapped by his own words.  He may have liked listening to John, but ultimately Herod valued his own reputation more than John’s life.

Do you think that Herod slept well that night and in the nights to come?  Was Herodias now satisfied after John’s prophetic voice is silenced? We do not know if Herod (or his family) was ever granted the grace to repent and to seek forgiveness for killing John – but they surely needed it.

This outcome must have seemed monstrous to John’s family and friends.  Injustice is evident here – a righteous man who speaks the truth perishes for the basest of reasons.  This would surely test their faith. Was God paying attention?  Why was evil seemingly allowed to triumph?  Sometimes we just cannot answer those questions on our own.  In hindsight, and with the benefit of scripture, we know that John was indeed preparing the way for his cousin, Jesus, who would likewise perish in a death surrounded by injustice. But that was not the end of the story.

Today’s readings in Thessalonians help to unpack the significance of the hope that separates people of faith from those without faith. We have hope in this life, despite the death and injustice around us.  That hope is not merely a dream or wish, but instead is based on the reality of resurrection. If our Lord was indeed raised, then we shall be raised, too.  Resurrection is something that we will experience together, as the entire Body of Christ is called to life with God.  This is indeed a consolation

We are not likely to understand the reasons for everything that happens in this life. We need grace to believe, to change, and even to forgive.  And we also need to have our hope replenished by calling to remembrance the good plans of God that ultimately will be fulfilled. It is a wonderful thing to be called by God to have a part in that fulfillment.  Today let each of us pray for the grace we need and the strength and courage to overcome the inertia that keeps us from serving and loving our Lord with our whole hearts, which is our only hope for peace.   

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