Mark’s gospel today tells the gruesome story of the death of John the Baptist, which prefigures the death of Jesus. King Herod ordered his death, prompted by Herodias. Human sinfulness is on display in this court banquet, which the artist (above) describes very well. The women smugly presenting John’s head. The man pointing his finger at Herod and Herod denying it all. John’ eyes are still open, his mouth still speaks.
Venerable Bede says that John’s death is like Jesus’ death because they both embraced the same values. If John stayed silent about Herod’s conduct, he may have gained a few peaceful years of life, but he was more concerned with what God thought than what powerful people on earth thought.
“His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth?
“He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life.
“But heaven notices– not the span of our lives, but how we live them, speaking the truth.” (Bede, Homily)
Wonderful line: It doesn’t matter how many years we live, but how we live them, “speaking the truth.”
For John that meant dying for the truth. What does it mean for us? It may not mean getting our heads chopped off, but we should expect some scars from the daily battle for God’s truth. ” May we fight hard for the confession of what you teach.” (Opening prayer)
sOMETIMES it is very hard to speak the truth, when the crowd is moving
the other way, this is especially true today when we talk about the rights of
citizens and immigrants…there needs to be a balance, but more there needs
to be truth…when we vet new people coming here to live. Today in Italy some of the migrants accepted there are now working in the rubble
of the earthquake to help rebuild and possibly save more lives.
one newsperson asked an immigrant why they were doing this…
he answered “Italy was most kind in welcoming us, and now this
part of Italy needs us in truth , so we are helping our new country”
does not truth ” pop up ” in the most amazing places.
What matters is– not the span of our lives– but how we live them, speaking the truth. This reminds me of the dash, the ~~~ line we see between the birth date and date of death on grave markers. The dash is the time we lived life and that’s the time we have to love God and others.