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Live in the Truth!
Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist
Saturday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Opening Prayer: My Lord, let your Spirit widen my heart through your words and with your wisdom. Help me to become more like you and teach me to love my neighbor as you love me. Amen.
- Silencing the Truth: John the Baptist gives us a clear example of leadership. Facing the moral and legal misconduct of King Herod, he could not remain silent. This of course triggered hostile reactions by those who stood accused. On the one hand, there was Herodias. Filled with hatred, she wanted to silence the bothering voice of the prophet. The starkness of that anger suggests that she sensed danger in the Baptist’s righteous words. Whether she worried that public opinion would turn against her, or that she might lose Herod’s favor, Herodias feared the truth and sought to silence it. She wanted to defeat the truth, kill it, thinking that it was a threat to her happiness.
- Imprisoning the Truth: On the other hand, there was Herod. He feared the truth too. But instead of triggering violence in him, the Baptist’s words intrigued him. He could see the beauty of virtue, could admire the heroism of the prophet, could probably even have harbored the desire to be different himself. But, ultimately, he could not change. He heard the accusation, he sensed the compelling power of truth, and yet he could not invite that truth in. Herod tried to incarcerate the truth, store it away, possess it without having to obey it. If we feel attracted to the truth but don’t have the courage to succumb to it, we also sometimes try to tame it and bend it so that we can control it.
- The Truth Is No Threat to Our Happiness: These two reactions are patterns for both the cultural battle in our world and the spiritual battle in our personal lives. When taking on the role of the prophet in our world, denouncing what is wrong and giving a voice to the truth, we may encounter both types of reactions. And when the truth knocks on the door of our own heart suggesting that we change our conduct, we also may be tempted with both kinds of reactions. The truth can be neither defeated nor incarcerated. Most importantly, the truth is no threat to our happiness.
Conversing with Christ: My Lord Jesus Christ, I trust in you. Daily life tempts me to think that I am the only one responsible for my happiness. Instead, I know that you are continuously guiding me toward greater joy and fulfilment. Nobody–not even I myself–can make me as happy as you can. Increase therefore my readiness to embrace your truth always and everywhere. Take away my fear of change, let me overcome the constant temptation of thinking I know better than you do, and send prophets of truth into my life who can redirect me when I’m mistaken. Lastly, Lord, send me to be a voice of truth myself. Not a grating voice with a lack of charity that can extinguish a smoldering wick, but the voice of a collaborator of the truth who seeks the true happiness of his fellow men.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine my attitude toward the truths the Church teaches. Am I trying to defeat or incarcerate a truth in my life?
For Further Reflection: Catechism of the Catholic Church 2465-2470: The Old Testament attests that God is the source of all truth. His Word is truth. His Law is truth. His “faithfulness endures to all generations.” Since God is “true,” the members of his people are called to live in the truth. In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth. “Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” The disciple of Jesus continues in his word so as to know “the truth [that] will make you free” and that sanctifies. To follow Jesus is to live in “the Spirit of truth,” whom the Father sends in his name and who leads “into all the truth.” To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes or No.'” Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth.” Truth as uprightness in human action and speech is called truthfulness, sincerity, or candor. Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and in guarding against duplicity, dissimulation, and hypocrisy. “Men could not live with one another if there were not mutual confidence that they were being truthful to one another.” The virtue of truth gives another his just due. Truthfulness keeps to the just mean between what ought to be expressed and what ought to be kept secret: it entails honesty and discretion. In justice, “as a matter of honor, one man owes it to another to manifest the truth.” The disciple of Christ consents to “live in the truth,” that is, in the simplicity of a life in conformity with the Lord’s example, abiding in his truth. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth.”
Written by Father Gabriel von Wendt, LC.