Daily Gospel Reflection – Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist
Bishop Robert Barron
August 29, 2023
Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist
Gospel: Mk 6:17-29
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?"
"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.
*United States Conference of Catholic
Bishop Robert Barron
Friends, today’s Gospel tells of the passion of John the Baptist, and it suggests to me “the Herod principle” that I like to apply to contemporary atheists. The Gospels tell us that Herod Antipas arrested John the Baptist because the prophet had publicly challenged the king. Herod threw John into prison, but then, we are told, the king loved secretly to listen to the prophet, who continued to preach from his cell.
A basic assumption of biblical people is that everyone is hardwired for God. As the Psalmist prayed, “My soul rests in God alone.” My wager is that everyone—and that includes Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins—implicitly wants God and hence remains permanently fascinated by the things of God.
Though the fierce atheists of today profess that they would like to eliminate religious speech and religious ideas, secretly they love to listen as people speak of God. So I say to Christians and other believers: be ready for a good fight, and get some spiritual weapons in your hands. And I say to the atheists: I’ll keep talking—because I know, despite your protestations, that your hearts are listening.