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Shortly after he had baptized Jesus on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist had denounced Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee, to his face.

For thirty years the dissolute ruler had indulged himself and his every whim, while holding court in his palace overlooking the Dead Sea. His latest crime: Herod had divorced his own wife and married Herodias, the wife of his elder brother Philip.

Tolerated by his Roman overlords and useful to them for their own purposes, the licentiousness and excess of the revelries he held were notorious and scandalous, and yet none dared to confront him for fear of the cruelty that lurked just below the surface of his unpredictable character. None dared to speak out. None, that is, until this John, known as the Baptist, and believed by many to be a prophet – if not indeed the Messiah.

In the same direct and fearless manner in which he censured the Jewish nation for the moral decadence into which it had fallen, and called sinners to repentance, John the Baptist spelled out clearly to Herod the evil he had done: “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

For proclaiming the truth, John was imprisoned. And yet Herod dared not take any further action against him. As is common with his kind, he was superstitious, and he knew him to be a “righteous man.” Moreover, John had for him an irresistible fascination. Who was this man? Herod’s anger gave way to curiosity. During the next four months, Herod’s visits to his prisoner began to have a strange affect on this master of revels. An irresistible awe gradually took possession of him, to be replaced by fear, which in turn gave place to respect. This did not go unnoticed by his courtiers, foremost among them, Herodias, and she bided her time, watchful for any opportunity that might be used, but impatient for John’s destruction.

A favorable occasion soon presented itself in the form of Herod’s birthday for which an elaborate banquet and lavish entertainment was to be laid on. His marriage to his brother’s wife and his arrest of John the Baptist had not been well received, though none but John dared to voice any open criticism. Thus, both Herod and Herodias took care that the celebrating and feasting should be more brilliant than usual, a luxurious affair that would purchase him the favor of his flatterers once again.

Influential and powerful officials, chiefs and magnates, from near and far, gathered at the palace – their differences dissolved round Herod’s loaded table. At a certain moment, well calculated for its affect, the succession of entertainers is replaced by a single dancer: Herodias's daughter, Salome. Her performance so pleased Herod that, caught up by the adulation of the crowd, he promised her whatever she should ask for, even if it be half of his kingdom. Thus was the elaborate trap set, that having pronounced a rash oath before such an audience, his pride would not permit him to withdraw it cost him what it may. Upon asking her mother’s advice, Salome requested the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

Although inwardly regretful, in his pride Herod could not refuse the request. As St. Augustine so aptly described what followed, “an oath rashly taken was criminally kept.” A guard was sent to behead John in prison. Thus, the "voice crying in the wilderness" was silenced. The head of the Precursor was placed on a platter and presented to Salome, who gave it to her mother.

John’s holiness was so evident that the Jews thought he might be the Messiah who had been promised, but John had protested and denied it. At the Jordan, John had pointed out Christ in person exclaiming: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sin of the world. This is he, of whom I said: After me there comes one, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose sandal I am not worthy to loose.” And that there be no doubt as to Whom he meant: “And I saw, and I give testimony that this is the Son of God.”

From that moment onwards, an eclipse takes place: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” His mission was to announce the Messiah. Therefore, once the Lamb of God had arrived, the prophecy of St. John Baptist was fulfilled, and his public mission decreased as he headed toward his martyrdom. On the contrary, Our Lord would increase until the complete fulfillment of His divine mission. The humility of St. John the Baptist was rewarded.

After his martyrdom, his name was covered with glory. Our Lord said that no man born of woman was greater than he. It is impossible to have a higher praise or more honorable glorification. But this glory had as its foundation his most profound humility.

 


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for April 6, 2020

True charity consists in putting up with all one’s neighbo...

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April 6

 

True charity consists in
putting up with all one’s neighbor’s faults,
never being surprised by his weakness, and
being inspired by the least of his virtues.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. William of Eskilsoë

The prospect of hardships and challenges in the service of O...

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St. William of Eskilsoë

William was born into an illustrious French family and raised in the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés under the tutelage of his uncle, Abbot Hugh.  The regularity of his conduct and virtuous life earned him the admiration of the community.

After being ordained a sub-deacon, he was appointed a canon of the Church of Sainte-Geneviève-du-Mont in Paris where the sanctity of his life greatly annoyed his worldly and lax fellow-canons. They mocked him for his more disciplined life and so persecuted him that William was forced to resign his canonry. However, in 1148, during a visit to Paris by Blessed Pope Eugene III, the latter observed the canonical laxity that reigned at Sainte-Geneviève-du-Mont and replaced the canons with more observant men thus vindicating William’s reputation. Under the direction of the famous Abbot Suger a new canonry with a stricter set of rules was established. William rejoined the community and, in a short time, became sub-prior.

William tempered his zeal for regular discipline with so much sweetness and humility that he led all to practice the rule with joy. The fame of his wisdom and sanctity even reached the ears of Absalon, the Bishop of Roskilde in Denmark, who sent his provost, the historian Saxo the Grammarian, to ask William to come to Denmark to help with the much-needed reforms there.

The prospect of hardships and challenges in the service of Our Lord inspired William to accept the invitation, and he cheerfully traveled to Denmark. There, he was appointed Abbot of Eskilsoë and, although he faced many difficulties both from powerful people and from within himself, he triumphed through prayer and patience. His apostolic zeal and perseverance bore much fruit for the Catholic Faith in Denmark during the thirty years he lived among the Danes. He also founded the Abbey of St. Thomas in Aebelhold (Ebelholt) in Zeeland and traveled to Rome to intercede with the Pope on behalf of the king’s sister, Ingelburga, who had been repudiated by her royal husband, King Philip Augustus of France.

William died in Denmark on April 6, 1203 and was canonized in 1224 by Pope Honorius III.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort...

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And He Stole Heaven

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.
 
On his left hung another man, covered in the matted blood of his wounds. Yet, with the exception of a few intermittent words, there was no sound from him.

As time passed, the thief became more and more engrossed in the silent crucified beside him, and less and less in his own plight.St Dismas Picture

Indeed life is ironic, mused Dismas, this man who had lived in the open, and was acclaimed as a healer and even as a king, now hung beside him who had spent his life lurking and hiding.

And now they were lifted up, both on a high parallel. He could see the roof tops of the city, he could see the highways he had stalked, and he could see the way they had walked. Now he looked down on those gathered around this place of execution, the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees, the curious, the friends of the man beside him…and a young man supporting a lady directly beneath them...

And then he knew her; that upturned face, that maidenly majesty now wracked by sorrow, her tear-filled eyes fastened on the man on his left–Yes, he knew that face.

As the wheels of time rolled back in his mind,  his heart gave a jolt as he remembered that blessed day in the desert, decades ago, when a young family making its way to Egypt, sought refuge for the night in his family’s hovel. The man was strong and kind, the woman was the fairest his child’s eyes had seen, and she carried a golden haired babe, as if nothing in the universe was more precious.

He remembered the lady’s gaze on him, her beautiful eyes full of concern for the leprous sores on his young body. Then she and his mother talked. And next, he was being bathed in the same water the lady had just washed her infant son.

And then the sores were gone.  His mother wept for joy, and kissed the lady’s hands, and the baby’s feet. And even his robber-father was moved, and offered the strong man and his family the best in the house.

Now, in one revealing flash, he knew the identity of the wounded man on his left.  He looked again at the lady, and her eyes, those same sweet eyes of old, were on him once more.  
He felt his heart quiver, as the power of gratitude filled his being and softened his criminal soul.  And then came tears, rivers of tears.  When he could speak, he turned to the left,

“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And the Lord turned his face to him, His divine eyes on him, and he heard the most beautiful voice he had ever heard, a voice at once full of pain and full of strength, full of sweetness and full of majesty, a judge’s voice, and a father’s voice,

“Amen, amen I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”

 

By Andrea F. Phillips
Based on: A Legend of St. Dismas and Other Poems,
Copyright by P. J. Kenedy and Sons. 1927, p. 18.

 

Free Meditation Booklet - Be Still and Know That I AM GOD

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.

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