A profound day in the Church’s year, and a profound day in the life of Christ. Clearly Jesus was moved and saddened by John’s death. His cousin is dead; and Jesus knows he will soon follow his cousin in death.
To step back and look at John’s life is truly amazing, inspiring, and life-giving. This radical prophet is born to prepare the way for the Lord. John also is a son of a miraculous birth; his father is literally speechless for months until John is presented to God in the temple. For nothing is impossible for God. As an infant in Elizabeth’s womb, he cannot be silent, but leaps for and in Joy, as the Messiah enters John’s home in Judah. This truly is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!
John says to us “look, there is the Lamb of God.” John, with power and conviction, calls the estranged to convert and return to the Lord, the God of Israel. He preaches repentance and uses the water of the Jordan River “to prepare the way of the Lord”.
The amazing parts of John’s life and death are somehow twisted in the words and response of Herod. Living with his sister-in-law in an unsanctioned marriage, he somehow knows he is wrong, yet he also is attracted to John and to John’s preaching of conversion. Herod is torn by the dichotomy of the truth and his current situation. The Baptizer has struck an uncomfortable nerve in Herod. Should he spare John’s life? What would Herodias and his guests think if he did?
In life and in death John must decrease, that Jesus may increase.
A word to the wise: Be careful whom you try to impress, and beware of the consequences.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.