WEDNESDAY THE TWENTY-NINTH OF AUGUST, 2018
* The Beheading of John the Baptist *
Dear Lord, let us start our work in faith, continue in obedience and finish with love. Amen.
John's light is dimmed, his prison, dark; his head the plaything for a feast.
The jealous spurn God's righteousness, just judge of both the great and least.
John's voice proclaimed the coming Light, whose radiance frees the darkened heart;
who levels mountains, paves the way, proves love, not hate, the better part.
O Bridegroom, closest of John's friends, let what he died for still endure:
may we the heralds of your joy be true, courageous, bold and pure.
( Aelred Seton Shanley )
MEDITATION by Tim Madsen
The Beheading of John the Baptist: when power meets fear
Today Saint Laika’s remembers the beheading of John the Baptist. Both Matthew and Mark relate the occasion. A lurid tale of a birthday party for Herod Antipas, the dance of Salome, which led Herod to promise her anything she wanted, “even half my kingdom.” The conniving of Herodias, Salome’s mother, goading her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter, Herod’s reluctant approval of her request.
Herod Antipas is portrayed as a fearful man. Matthew tells us he was fearful of the crowds, who believed John was a holy prophet. Mark tells us Herod was afraid of John. Herod was afraid to lose face among his birthday guests. After he brazenly made his promise to Salome, how could he now go back on his word?
Mark writes: “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.”
What a strange relationship Herod had with John. John had the courage to speak against Herod’s illicit relationship with Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Herod’s fearful nature caused his moral collapse and directly led to John’s beheading.
We can only wonder at how many innocent men and women have been put to death because powerful people succumbed to fear. We know it happened to Jesus, for Pontius Pilate had a similar fear of the crowd. How many other tyrants in the sad history of our planet slew their purported enemies out of fear?
Speaking truth to power comes with an awful price. Yet today we honour one holy man’s integrity and remember one king’s moral cowardice.
Scripture. In the first chapter of "The Second Letter to the Corinthians," verses seventeen to twenty, we read:
Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say "Yes, yes" and "No, no" at the same time?
As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been "Yes and No." For the son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not "Yes and No;" but in him, it is always "Yes." For in him every one of God’s promises is a "Yes." For this reason, it is through him that we say the "Amen," to the glory of God.
... for peace in the world.
... that we may proclaim aloud the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ among his people with courage and power.
... that we may never shun our duty to speak the truth even when it concerns powerful and influential people.
... for political prisoners.
... for an end to all nuclear tests and for a world without nuclear weapons. DETAILS
... for the people of Slovakia who celebrate their national day today.
... for all involved in sports.
... for young people who feel compelled to self-harm.
... for the people of Venezuela as the crisis in their country continues; for the wellbeing of those attempting to flee the country.
... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.
... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.
... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.
... for ourselves.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
From a homily by Bede the Venerable:
As forerunner of our Lord’s birth, preaching and death, the blessed John showed in his struggle a goodness worthy of the sight of heaven.
In the words of scripture: "Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality."
We justly commemorate the day of his birth with a joyful celebration, a day which he himself made festive for us through his suffering and which he adorned with the crimson splendour of his own blood. We do rightly revere his memory with joyful hearts, for he stamped with the seal of martyrdom the testimony which he delivered on behalf of our Lord.
There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. 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?"
Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.
Through his birth, preaching and baptising, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering, he showed that Christ also would suffer.
Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. 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 and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptised in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptize the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.
Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name.
Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: "You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake."
He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us."
O God, you chose John the Baptist to be the forerunner of your son both in birth and in death. Grant that, as John laid down his life for truth and justice, we too may strive with courage to bear witness to your word; through Jesus Christ, our saviour and lord. Amen.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
NOW LIGHT A CANDLE
CLICK HERE, then click on "Begin" and follow the instructions on each page.