Homily for the Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist September 29, 2017

Jeremiah 1:17-19; Psalm 71; Mark 6:17-29

What a place John the Baptist has in God’s saving work brought about in Jesus. Having not long ago celebrated our remembrance of John’s birth (in June) the church directs our attention to his death. The generosity of God is met by a generosity in John giving his whole life out of love for God, that continues to inspire and challenge us even centuries later. For us living monastic life – John who went into the desert to pray, teaches us a great deal about our life, the witness of our faith and the persevering in the face of misunderstanding and hardship that encourage us in difficult times.

Jeremiah reminds those who are faithful to proclaim without reserve the love of God continuously offered even saying resist the fear that can enter in when others are bothered by the witness of this proclamation. The psalm refrain reminds us of proclaiming with the lips urging us not to forget that our way of life must speak our faith just as much.

In John the Baptist the proclamation of God’s love with his lips and his life became so disturbing to some that they grew to be determined to end his life. And a young woman becomes the tool in the hands of her mother to silence John, while a man agrees to allow him to be killed lest he be embarrassed in front of his guests, having made a promise in a state of drunkenness he does not have the courage to reverse. The fragility and weakness in these people brings us to an awareness of the consequences and effects of our own fragility and weakness. John’s strength in the face of imprisonment and cruel death encourages us to be strong for God in the face of whatever may be at work to deter us from our commitment.

The red martyrs – like John – who shed their blood in total dedication to God and the white martyrs (as some call those living monastic life trying to give their whole lives to God) bring something very important to the broader church. And our memorial of John’s passion and death today links us to the One whose death and resurrection we remember as we gather in faith this morning lifting up to God Jesus who is giving his life for us and to us.