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The Voice of Truth
Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying,
“John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” Herod was the one who had John 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. Herodias 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. His 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?” Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request 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: Come Holy Spirit, open my ears to hear your word. Open my mind to understand its meaning. Open my soul to receive your life-giving truth and plant it deep in the good soil of my heart.
- Last Prophet, First Martyr: St. John the Baptist was the last prophet who foretold Jesus; in fact, he was the new Elijah. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he…For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:11-14). John was also the first Christian martyr. He was martyred for following and proclaiming God’s moral law. His adherence to the truth landed him in prison and angered Herod’s new wife, costing him his life. Servant of God Dorothy Day said that Jesus came for two reasons: “He came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” When we profess and proclaim the truth, we can make other people uncomfortable. While we must proclaim the truth with prudence and, above all, charity, we are called to have fortitude in the face of immorality.
- John’s Power: Even from prison, John stayed firm in his adherence to the truth and to preaching God’s word. Herod was afraid of John, perhaps because he spoke so boldly and was full of “the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). Even though Herod feared John, he would go and listen to him while he was in prison. John confused him, “yet he liked to listen to him.” This line is so interesting and poses many questions. What did they talk about? What was it about John’s manner and words that attracted this immoral king to go into the dungeon and listen to someone who had called him out for his behavior? One might imagine that John was very virtuous. He most likely spoke powerfully with truth and conviction, but also with the gentleness and love of someone who follows the Lord. How do we reflect the merciful love of the Father when we speak and act?
- Admonishing the Sinner: John was imprisoned and martyred for admonishing the king. Our consciences are meant to admonish us internally. The conscience is the voice of God’s law inside ourselves. It tells us what is right and wrong and how we should follow God’s will. St. John Henry Newman called it “the aboriginal Vicar of Christ” in the soul. A good morning practice is to ask Jesus to guide us by our consciences throughout the day. When people choose to suppress or ignore this voice inside them, we can be the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd for them—a voice of truth coming from outside instead of from the inside. Admonishing the sinner is a spiritual work of mercy. This must always be done with charity, keeping Christ’s truth and the salvation of the person we are speaking with at the forefront of our minds.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, when I am faced with immorality, send your charity, prudence, knowledge, and fortitude to me. May I speak with love, kindness, and truth. Give me the courage to defend my faith and build up your Kingdom. May I always seek to lift up my brothers and sisters and help them hear your voice. Help me to be your firm but gentle voice of truth in this broken world.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will ask my conscience to guide me throughout the rest of the day. I will pay attention to and follow it, as it is your voice, my Good Shepherd.
For Further Reflection: Read this article from Catholic Culture: ‘Admonish the Sinner’: The Third Spiritual Work of Mercy.
Carey Boyzuck is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and lay member of Regnum Christi. She blogs at www.word-life-light.com