Friday, February 6 ~ Fourth Week in Ordinary time
Saint Paul Miki, Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs
Holy Gospel: Mark 6:14-29 King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” Herod was the one who had John 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. Herodias 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. His 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?” Her mother 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.
Meditation: What better what to shut someone up permanently than to have them beheaded? Why have John the Baptist silenced? For telling the truth – the truth which Herodias did not want to hear about the sinful relationship she was living. Herodias, the daughter of Aristobulus and Bernice, was first married to her uncle, her father’s half-brother, Philip (Mark 6:17). While living in Rome, they had a daughter named Salome. Herodias later left Philip and married Herod Antipas, Philip’s brother, thereby making her the wife of two of her uncles. Herod Antipas was the tetrarch of Galilee during the life of Jesus. John the Baptist, a fearless and righteous servant of God, did not shy away from proclaiming the truth – in this case publicly condemning the incestuous and adulterous behavior of the ruler of the land. For this John was arrested, and at the instigation of Herodias was beheaded. The infamous “head of John the Baptist on a platter” was her idea out of revenge – revenge for John the Baptist telling the truth, instead of being politically correct and not saying anything about this sinful relationship.
Prayer: O God, strength of all the Saints, who through the Cross were pleased to call the Martyrs Saint Paul Miki and companions to life, grant, we pray, that by their intercession we may hold with courage even until death to the faith that we profess. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: How many times have we embraced the “politically correct” route in this world versus embracing the truths contained in sacred scripture? How many times have we let personal opinion (“here is what I think” or “here is how I see it”) or personal feelings (“this is how I feel”) trump any law of God, any teaching of Jesus Christ, or any teaching of the Catholic Church? In other words, am I just as guilty of turning away from the truth by turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to a situation in my own life or in the life of family members or friends – only so that I can be politically correct? Have I followed the route of Herodias and tried to have the truth silenced, just as she had John the Baptist silenced by having him beheaded? Or if not silenced, have I simply ignored the truth, or taken a sarcastic approach to the truth, or the convenient approach to the truth by thinking I’m sophisticated and modern, and thus in my mind thinking that the truth has become “old fashioned” and out-of-step with modern times? The laws of God and the teachings of Christ do not have a shelf life. Always remember what Jesus tells us in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…” and in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Folks, we need to embrace the truth with much more zeal and confidence. We cannot think that others apart from Christ have a solution to life’s challenges or think that their way of living is acceptable when it is contrary to Christ. The truth is worth living, promoting and defending. We have one life, and we must turn away from the compromise of Christ’s truths and instead embrace his teachings and let him be our shepherd and guide – not popular culture. Each compromise is a twisting of the truth so that it is no longer truth. Do you embrace, promote and defend the truth? As a disciple of Christ, do you let Jesus Christ reign fully in your life?
About Saint Paul Miki and Companions: Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, killing hundreds of thousands. Three and a half centuries before, twenty-six martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his church. Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.” When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith. Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.
Scripture passages (NAB translation) courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops;
prayers are from The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing, 2011;
information about saints, solemnities, feasts and memorials courtesy of the Catholic Culture web site.