Finding God in the Dark
Malvern Minute

 

August 29, 2017 – Tuesday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time

The Passion of Saint John the Baptist

Mark J. Poletunow, Malvern President (mpoletunow@malvernretreat.com)

Click for: Readings for the day (From the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops)

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (23:13-22)

Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.

John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.

She 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.
Herodias’ 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?”
She 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.

 

Reflect: Herod had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison. John is facing the dark night. He challenged Herod about his sin and set-off the ire of Herodias who held “a grudge against him and wanted to kill him.” Alone and in prison, John must have wondered about the purpose of his life. He had to find consolation from God in darkness and isolation. He trusted in God’s hidden will, rather than asking for “external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, discover[ed] God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed” (Pope Benedict XVI). That is quite a challenge. Most of us want to find some reassurance that we are on the right path with God. Our reality, however, is often more similar to the experience of John. God becomes our foundation and we put ourselves into his hands. Some days, however, we have little or no affirmation that staying on the path with Jesus is the right thing. We walk in faith believing that what we have learned and tried to put into practice will honor God and, ultimately, is not only the right thing, but also our path to heaven.  Although he faced human fear, John, undoubtedly, discovered the peace of God in darkness. His faithfulness is there to encourage us at the moment of our own dark night when we feel as if the world and the people around us are completely against us; yet, God is with us.  If God is for us, who can be against?

Questions: Am I willing to put my life completely in God’s hands even if it means that I might feel imprisoned and despised? How has God been present to me in the dark moments of my life when I felt abandoned and isolated? How is God calling me today to trust in his will for my life despite a lack of feeling external support?

Pray: Loving God, you willed that Saint John the Baptist should go ahead of your Son both in his birth and in his death. Grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice, I, too, might fight hard for the confession of what you teach. I pray this in the powerful and perfect name of Jesus. Amen.

Saint John the Baptist: Pray for us!

John answered and said: He must increase; but I must decrease.

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