Does anything in your life shut you up when you’re called to “speak the truth in love”?


John the Baptist suffered and died for the sake of marriage as God intended it to be.  In today’s gospel, the familiar story of his martyrdom unfolds: John imprisoned for having the courage to tell King Herod that taking his brother’s wife was wrong . . . Herod’s foolish promise to deliver whatever a young girl wanted . . . her demand for the head of John the Baptist immediately on a platter (how grisly!) . . . and Herod’s subsequent command to behead the prophet.

More honestly, I fear those who act without God, without consulting God.  In this Gospel passage, Herod acted in spite of his affection for John the Baptist, in spite of his deep distress. He orders an execution to maintain honor and to please his family. This pressure seems common in our lives and in our world. State executions, wars and many other acts of violence are mandated and executed by rulers of our day. I am sure many feel the same inner rumbling, the same distress that Herod felt. The warning given today seems not just to warn those such as Herod, but also those of us who may harbor grudges like Herodias. I still see God stirring our insides, trying to call us to act to intervene, to forgive and to recognize God’s presence in our world and in our modern day prophets.

We read that when Herod “heard him (John) speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.” Herod is said to fear John, “knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.” Because of Herodias’ grudge, John was first imprisoned. Herod, in a moment of appreciation, offers one demand to his niece. She and her mother exploit this offer to demand the death of this prophet. Regarding the demand for execution, “the king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her.”

Inner rumblings did not yield results here. While Herod acknowledges the compelling way that John spoke and preached the kingdom of God, he did not trust the inner voice that was attracted by John or the great distress he felt in executing the demand. In wanting to be perceived as honorable, he did not have the courage to follow his own heart, to follow God’s invitation.  Herod did not find a diplomatic way to escape the pressure of this situation, to meet needs and save face.

Sometimes we are so caught up in maintaining a grudge or in honor that we cannot dream of another solution. At these times we choose not to collaborate with God. God’s call rumbling inside of us, causing deep distress is a call to find an alternative. It is important for us to trust our gut and to have a firm resolve to not comply with something that we do not feel ok with. Paying attention to our distress, finding God’s voice in any situation that seems impossible is a difficult invitation. There is still much violence in our world. It seems to only grow, with an increasing need for a critical mass of people to speak their distress and to find an alternative. It may start with our own life, with our family and workplace. It also needs to radiate to our prisons, to our legislatures, to our world leaders. Until then, “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.

Does anything in your life shut you up when you’re called to “speak the truth in love”? Does anything shut you down when you should be taking bold initiatives in evangelization and ministry? By God’s grace, don’t let fear, trauma, or even Satan keep you from doing His will. The Lord commands: “Stand up and tell them all that I command you” . The Lord promises: “They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you” . Stand, speak, walk, run, live, die, rise.

John was unwavering. He would not compromise, even for a king. And he paid for his faithfulness with his own life, for the sake of defending God’s plan for marriage. All these centuries later, God still has a plan for marriage, the same one He created from the beginning. It is a plan born of infinite wisdom and love. Yet many people don’t know about God’s plan for marriage, or they simply reject it. In fact, traditional marriage is under attack these days, from many sides.

As Catholic Christians, we must know and speak the truth about marriage. It is God’s truth, and it is readily available in our Catholic teachings, found in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” May we be informed, and unafraid to defend marriage!

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