Fidelity in Suffering

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Readings for the Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist, August 29

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, Martyr – Memorial

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.  Matthew 6:25-27

This sad story, of the beheading of John the Baptist, reveals much to us.  It reveals, above all, the mystery of evil in our world and God’s permissive will in allowing evil, at times, to flourish.

Why did God allow St. John to be beheaded?  He was a great man.  Jesus, Himself, said that there was no one born of woman greater than John the Baptist.  And, yet, He allowed John to suffer this great injustice.

St. Teresa of Ávila once said to our Lord, “Dear Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!”  Yes, God has clearly allowed those whom He loves to suffer greatly throughout history.  What does this tell us?

First of all, we should not forget the obvious fact that the Father allowed the Son to suffer greatly and to be murdered in a horrific way.  Jesus’ death was brutal and shocking.  Does this mean the Father did not love the Son?  Certainly not.  So what does this mean?

The fact of the matter is that suffering is not a sign of the disfavor of God.  If you suffer and are given no relief by God it is not because God has abandoned you.  It is not that He does not love you.  In fact, the opposite is most likely true.

John the Baptist’s suffering is, in fact, the greatest sermon he could have preached.  It’s a witness to his unwavering love of God and his wholehearted commitment to the will of God.  The “sermon” of John’s passion is powerful because he chose to stay faithful to our Lord despite the persecution he endured.  And, from God’s perspective, John’s fidelity is infinitely more valuable than his continued physical life or the physical sufferings he endured.

Reflect, today, upon your own life.  At times we carry some heavy cross and beg our Lord to take it from us.  Instead, God tells us that His grace is sufficient and that He wishes to use our sufferings as a testimony of our fidelity.  So, the Father’s response to Jesus, His response to John and His response to us is a call to enter into the mystery of our sufferings in this life with faith, hope, confidence and fidelity.  Never let the hardships of life deter you from your fidelity toward the will of God.

Lord, may I have the strength of Your Son and the strength of St. John the Baptist as I carry my own crosses in life.  May I remain strong in faith and filled with hope as I hear You calling me to embrace my cross.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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