By JENNIFER BURGIN
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.”
Two years ago, I served as a jury member on a DWI trial. Police pulled over the defendant at 1:30 am driving in the wrong direction. With weak testimony from both the prosecution and defense, our only burden of proof existed in the surveillance video. We analyzed the footage over and over before reaching a unanimous guilty verdict. On the last day of the trial, I remember seeing the defendant outside the courthouse. He smiled with a look of nervousness in his eyes. I'm sure he hoped, and prayed, for an acquittal. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the man. What a huge mistake driving under the influence......
The defendant received a speedy and fair trial sentenced to a fine, probation, and community service. If he stayed sober, he had a chance at a fresh start. No jail time. No death sentence with endless appeals. He got off luckier than most.
In contrast to the young man found guilty of DWI, John the Baptist was not only unjustly thrown into prison but endured a trial by murder. Herodias couldn't believe anyone, especially a popular prophet, would criticize her marriage to Herod: How ridiculous! How uncalled for! I much rather see John's head on platter than preaching blasphemy, telling my husband what he cannot do!
What is lawful? We sometimes interpret the law in ways that suit our own needs and selfish purposes. We run a red light because we're in a hurry: Uh, I'm so sick of this long light every morning. I'm going to floor it! We take home some Post-It notes and a few ballpoint pens from work: It's not really stealing just borrowing. We fudge a digit or two on our tax returns: The IRS won't notice that I didn't claim all of my capital gains for the 4th quarter. When it comes to breaking the law, we think everybody does it and gets away with it. However, this is simply not the case. God has ingenious ways of correcting unlawful or bad behavior. We don't know when or how but our actions always produce consequences!
In my own life, whenever I've tried to do something wrong it backfires in my face. I get caught and must face up to the shame, guilt, and embarrassment. In my teenage and college days, I did some terrible things. I look in retrospect and think: Boy, was I foolish and stupid! Thank God I didn't end up in jail. Thank the Lord I learned some huge life-long lessons!
Witness to the faith When it comes to our Catholic faith, we have a responsibility to be an authentic and genuine witness. Sadly, many people who describe themselves as "Catholic" are ignorant of the faith. They may not even know the meaning of the basics like Christmas or Easter. The rosary is a foreign object. The Real Presence in the Eucharist doesn't "really" exist. Confession is thought of as an archaic act. How can they witness to the faith without knowing it?! When faith becomes irrelevant or meaningless, a person drifts away. Our Protestant brothers and sisters jump at the chance to reel ex-Catholics into their own worship practices. Moreover, other people simply stop going to church. I can hear the excuse: I don't need God! He's absolutely meaningless. My life isn't any better with or without him. I don't need to pray! Religion is nonsense!
We cannot remain silent when it comes to sharing our faith with others. Pope Francis recently tweeted: "In the face of life's difficulties, let us ask the Lord for the strength to remain joyful witnesses to our faith."
John the Baptist never backed down and never gave up when it came to prophesy. He recognized Christ's power to heal and perform miracles. He realized that even if it meant an early death he must proclaim Truth of Christ to all who will listen and believe.
The next time you meet a friend, invite them to Mass or a bible study. Talk about "church stuff" to others but in a way that's interesting and engaging. Don't be afraid to defend the Church's teachings. Wear a crucifix or Miraculous Medal wherever you go, proud to be Catholic! Remember to always be a lawful witness to the faith just like John the Baptist.
"To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.”
- Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin. Please visit her blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality