“If some day they take the radio station away from us, if they close down our newspaper, if they don’t let us speak, if they kill all the priests and the bishop too, and you are left, a people without priests, each one of you must be God’s microphone, each one of you must be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as there is one baptized person. And that one baptized person who is left in the world is responsible before the world for holding aloft the banner of the Lord’s truth and of his divine justice.” – Archbishop Oscar Romero: (1917 – 1980: was a prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador, who served as the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. In 1980, Romero was assassinated while offering Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence.
Gospel Text: (MT 14:1-12)
Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, "This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him."
Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
"It is not lawful for you to have her."
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
"Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist."
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew
When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount including this beatitude about the reward for enduring persecution, Herod’s recent murder of John the Baptist must have been painfully in his mind and that of the crowd. Did Jesus fight back tears as he spoke these words? Did his audience?
In our era, I think, for example, of people like Archbishop Romero, the Jesuits and the nuns who were murdered in El Salvador for fighting for justice for the poor. They were as tough and zealous in their own ways as John the Baptist. They suffered the same fate and received (I assume) the same reward.
I hope all of us who think about John the Baptist and this Beatitude will gain both a new insight into the humanity of Jesus and have the courage to take just a few more risks in our own communities “for the sake of righteousness.” We may pay a modest price but Jesus has promised us the Kingdom heaven if we live this beatitude.
God bless all who are already doing so!