Friday, August 26, 2011

Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Saturday, July 30, 2011
Matthew 14:1-12 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist)

As I prayed over today’s Gospel of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, I was reminded of a passage from St. Bernard’s commentary on the Song of Songs.  He writes of a man in love with God:  “Falling asleep in the midst of his prayer he dreams of God; what he sees is a dim reflection in a mirror, not a vision face to face.  However, although it be but a vague apprehension and not an actual vision, a fleeting glimpse of sparkling glory as it passes, utterly delicate in its impact, yet he burns with love and says:  “At night my soul longs for you and my spirit in me seeks for you.”  A love like this is full of zeal; it is a love becoming the Bridegroom’s friend, the love that must inspire the faithful and prudent servant whom the Lord appoints over his household.  It fills the soul’s capacity, grows heated and brims over, gushing with abandon into streamlets.  This is the love that cries out:  “Who is weak and I am not weak?  Who is scandalized and I am not inflamed?”  Let such a man preach, let him bear fruit, let him show new signs and do fresh wonders, for vanity can find no toehold in the man whom charity totally possesses.  A total love is the law in all its fullness, it can effectively fill the heart’s capacity.  Finally God himself is love, and nothing created can satisfy the man who is made to the image of God, except the God who is love, who alone is above all created natures.  The man who has not yet attained to this love is promoted to office at the gravest risk to himself, no matter how distinguished he be with other virtues.  Even if he knows everything, if he gives all his goods to the poor and lets his body be taken for burning, without charity he is worthless.”
Such a man full of zealous love was St. John the Baptist.  And such a man promoted to office without the least semblance of this love was Herod the Tetrarch.   It is a sad fact of our sinful human condition that often those who hold public or even ecclesiastical office are unqualified according to St. Bernard’s standards.  And so, those truly on fire with love are persecuted, imprisoned, and put to death because they prove too hot to handle for the powers that be.  Let us pray that our modern day prophets may not lose courage and our Herods be converted to the greater power of divine love.

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