Below is my homily for the Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist (formerly known as the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist). This homily was given to the Saint Vincent Seminary Community at our daily mass on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.
Today, we celebrate the passion of Saint John the Baptist, and I think this celebration comes at the perfect time for us, the beginning of our new academic year. We start off the year with a very vivid image of the cost of discipleship.
I know all of us here are familiar with this concept. It is something that has been taught to us over and over again: we must be willing to die for Christ, for the truth; we must be willing to be a disciple.
Even though we hear this said, do we actually allow this truth to resonate within ourselves?
Now, my brothers, understand that I only say this from personal experience, but how often do we truly die to our own ambitions, our own wants, our own will, and truly live for Jesus Christ?
Saint Paul in our first reading is very explicit at what he and Silvanus and Timothy had to endure for the Gospel.
Paul says that, even after they had “suffered and been insolently treated,” they still found the strength and courage to continue forward and travel to Thessalonica. They could have given up; they could have followed their own wills and walked away from the Good News.
Yet they didn’t.
They continued on with their mission.
Let us take an opportunity now to place ourselves in Paul’s shoes:
- How often do we feel defeated?
- I know that feeling rather well, personally.
- How often do we want to give up after this feeling of defeat?
- I can easily relate to this feeling.
- How often do we pick ourselves up and continue to move forward with the Call of Jesus Christ to “Come, follow [Him]?”
In some situations, I know we all have done this: we have found the strength to pick ourselves up and to move forward on the Journey.
This is the strength that John the Baptist had: to lay down his life for the Truth.
This strength is what we should all strive for, knowing fully well that we will fail, yet knowing also that we need to not give up, to place our faith and strength in Jesus Christ.
This memorial of the beheading of John the Baptist comes to us at the perfect opportunity, the beginning of a new academic year. The call and the cost of discipleship is a lesson that we hear in our seminary studies and should be one that we strive for every day, knowing that it is Jesus Christ calling us ever closer to Him.
Let us take time to day to thank God for this call to discipleship, this wondrous gift to grow closer and closer to Him. Yet lets us also take an opportunity daily to lay down our own wills, our own goals, our own aspirations at the foot of the cross, begging Jesus to give us the strength to follow in His footsteps, even if that means like John the Baptist, laying down our own life for the Gospel.