St. Agatha, Virgin Martyr
Sirach 47:2-11 + Mark 6:14-29
February 5, 2016
“When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.”
Today’s Gospel passage presents a long flashback to the martyrdom of St. John the Baptizer. It’s notable that St. Mark the Evangelist, so concerned with brevity in his Gospel account, gives so much attention to this narrative. St. John was obviously a figure of importance in relating the Good News to early Christians, even in regard to his death.
What distinguishes St. John the Baptizer as a saint? We might say that it’s his particular combination of humility and courage. Sometimes humility (and also meekness) are seen in opposition to courage. In this false light, humility is a form of weakness and submission, involving an inability to stand up for oneself.
In one sense, humility truly is a form of submission. Humility truly means not seeing oneself as the center of the universe, or the king of the hill. In turn, humility truly means recognizing one’s true place in life. This truth tenders a capacity for strength that doesn’t consider earthly life as one’s purpose in life. This truth leads to a courage willing to forfeit one’s earthly life for eternal life. St. John the Baptizer witnessed to Christ in his penitence, in his preaching, in his knowing that Jesus must increase and he must decrease, and in his acceptance of the gift of martyrdom.