Readings for Friday February 4, 2011
First Reading: Hebrews 13:1-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 27
Gospel: Mark 6:14-29
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, “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. (Mk. 6:21-29)
As kids, we are brought up to believe that the best stories are the ones with happy endings. We often do not like stories where the ending is not as we had hoped. One could take the story of John the Baptist and deduce that it is a story with a good beginning, but a rather sad and morbid ending. Think about it, John was born under miraculous circumstances, he had a life devoted to God, he prepared the way for the coming Messiah, and even baptized Christ! One would think that his end would be a happy one, but this is not the way it ends at all, in fact John's life ends because a certain woman was offended, and wanted his head put on a platter. Not exactly a story book ending.
John's end, like that of many Christian martyrs, is not a happy one, it is one of suffering, and if that were truly the end of the story, then we would be right in questioning the point of living a life for Christ. But the end of the story is not found here on earth, it is found in heaven. John's story and the story of many faithful men and women, despite their earthly endings, is not one to mourned, but rather celebrated! For they are now in heaven with our Lord. You see, this is why we have a faith and hope that can only come from our Lord, it is it he guarantee that no matter how things end here on earth, if we are willing to love and serve God, then our happy ending is found in heaven.
John the Baptist found out that death is not the end of life, but rather it is the beginning of a new life in heaven; a life that is more perfect and joy filled than we could ever imagine. Each of us can share in this happy ending as well, but only if we are willing to sacrifice and persevere in this life on earth.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us!
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we thank you and praise you for the gift of faith and for the hope that you bring. Help us to live only for you, and to never flee from this calling to Holiness and Christian love. We pray for all those who have fallen away from the faith, may they be brought back to your good and loving arms. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.