Homilette for Friday, August 29, 2008

Memorial of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

(Mark 6:17-29)

This curious sidebar in Mark’s gospel describing the martyrdom of John the Baptist resolves what happened to one of the first century’s greatest religious leaders. It also anticipates Jesus’ death.

John was an enormously popular religious prophet whom evidently even Jesus followed for awhile. His being executed like a dog shows how state power can wantonly lay aside human rights. More than the other evangelists Mark will describe Jesus’ death as similarly outrageous and gruesome. The Jewish leaders have false witnesses testify against Jesus. Pilate hardly gives him a hearing at all. And Jesus hangs on the cross for a full six agonizing hours in this gospel.

“Where is justice?” we want to cry out. It is with God, and He has introduced it into the world with the paschal mystery of Jesus. Just as Jesus’ brutal death ended in the glory of the resurrection so the lives of those who believe in him will be saved. For now we move under Jesus’ mandate to fortify the mechanisms of justice in our society. We also pray that when injustice strikes despites our efforts to keep it at bay, its victims will respond with the love of enemy which Jesus emphasized.