Decapitation is never pleasant. It is, quite possibly the most brutal mode of execution, of murder. Yet we celebrate the Feast of the Beheading of Saint John The Baptist with great gusto for it should set an example what our Lord said in Matthew 18: 25, For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for My sake, shall find it." So why worry what happens to our head or any other member of our body? It is our soul that we should be concerned with as Jesus asserts in the next verse, "For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Sobering words indeed and in remembering the man who baptized Christ, we must recall that this great saint lost his physical, earthly head precisely because he refused to lose his eternal, heavenly one. Many other saints also willingly put their necks on the line. How willing are we to place our head on the block?
Mercy and Merit
If John symbolizes anything, it is the audacious courage and dedication necessary for anyone to truly follow Christ amid the wolves and frauds that infest our surroundings.
We are all weak sinners for sure, and offending Our Lord is a given in view of that weakness, but the secret to salvation is the firm grasp of God's infinite mercy and love for us that always keeps that bridge of return open to us should we be willing to take advantage of that opportunity.
In addition to our trust and humble acceptance of our own weakness and need for God's pardon, however, we have a powerful and sacred duty if we ever dare to pretend to pick up our cross in His footsteps.
It is not enough to say we love Him, say we trust Him to forgive us no matter how often and how profoundly we offend Him. No, in truth we must be willing to follow the footsteps of The Baptist in speaking out, not against those who sin for we all do, but against those who would proudly and publicly sin as so many so-called Catholics and 'Catholic' leaders do today. Sadly ther are very, very few truly Catholic leaders today - and those who are, are not well known to the world for they cry in the wilderness and so few hear them.
It is one thing, my friends, to sin for we all are very adept at doing that. It is quite another, however, to publicly and proudly sin all the while pretending or proclaiming that one's sin is not a sin at all as if one had an ounce of standing to determine that. We are surrounded by scores of so-called 'Catholics' who pretend to have that wisdom, standing and justification. It is bad enough that they turn sin into a fad. What is worse is that they arrogantly and insolently pretend to define what sin is at all, ignoring the very Word of God that they sometimes pretend to know so much about, be they prelate, pastor, presbyter, professor or politician.
Is Our Faith a Container or Its Liquid?
To use a metaphor of a a container and its contents, the essence of our Catholic faith is determined by whether we see that faith as a container or the liquid that container holds. That difference defines what we are and where we are headed as Catholics.
If we see our faith as the container, we will pour our actions, thoughts, words and deeds into that sturdy flask. They will have to adapt and reshape according to the boundaries and limits of that faith. They must find a way to fit into our faith as we define it.
Including in this liquid will be our personal agenda and issues. There is no room for selfishness, arrogance or jealousy among Christ's true followers.
Conversely, if we place our faith in the contents alone, we will be at the mercy of the outside elements. Too often, the problems facing our Church today stem from seeing our faith as the liquid to be poured rather than the container that shapes and defines it. Rather than conform our lives to our faith, we often conform our faith to the lives we want to lead, regardless of how far that is from God. Liquid molds itself to its surroundings. It makes things easier in many ways. It even seeks the path of least resistance. That is not the way of Christ. It is, however, the way of the devil.
While liquid is used to baptize, that liquid itself is defined by the container of our faith. Like an empty bottle in the ocean, we must be ready to go it alone in defense of our beliefs and faith. That is the only way that our faith will allow God to wash away our sins and refresh our souls with the promise of salvation.
The True Vessel
Of course, vessels can be broken, the necks of casks chopped off, but it is still a vessel. Whereas, once the liquid turns sour or is poured out, that's all there is. Faith does not ferment or evaporate.
The Wedding at Cana saw containers of liquid serve as the instruments of Christ's first miracle. We must recall how Christ multiplied the water within the urns never allowing the water to overrun those jars. John The Baptist reminds us that being a true follower of Christ is being the solid container through which our faith is defined rather than the changing liquid which allows itself to shaped by the container itself.
We have each been given abilities and talents by God Almighty. Each of us has rare and unique gifts to confer upon the world in His Name. We will surely be measured by how much we truly love God and others as per the teaching of Christ, but another powerful measure will be how much we stood up for Christ, how much we made our voices heard in this moral wilderness.
In that vein we have Christ's holy cousin as a shining example of what Catholic discretion means. That discretion is simply to take no prisoners, yield no ground and stand firm in speaking for and in favor of God's Word and God's Rules. We can send our concerns regarding what others may think to the devil's home address, for our eternal home address and that of those we touch in our lives should be our only concern.
Preservation Without Christ is Nothing
John also reminds us that nothing in this world is worth preserving, not even our lives, if that preservation comes at the expense of He who gave us the passport to salvation. Like it or not, it all begins and ends with Him.
So as we remember Christ's precursor, let us not forget that John was more than a voice in the wilderness. He is a voice crying out to each of us, demanding that we too speak out in the name of Christ, through word, action and pen.
So what if we lose our heads. At least we'll save our souls. And that's what it's all about. Would you rather be in John the Baptist's shoes (albeit headless), or in Herod, Herodias and Salome's fashion shoes that have long ago disintegrated as their souls cry out in neverending agony from the depths of hell? Think about that long and hard and whether you have the guts to lay your head on the line for Christ and the True Faith.
The popular image of John The Baptist as some rogue wild man ignores the essence of his message. That message is that we must all be precursors to Christ in whatever we do. The issue is not whether or not we are qualified to be so, for we are not given our weakness and sin. Rather, the issue is that God wants to use our talents despite that weakness to further His Kingdom.
If there is one major reason why the present visible church posing as the Catholic Church is sinking, it is because it is teeming with cowards and rationalizing idiots, who have abandoned their Faith because they are more concerned with themselves than their Lord, dancing up a whirling dirvish over the ruse and ruin of their souls by giving in to the siren of the world, the flesh and the devil. These clueless heads are more concerned with keeping their heads than keeping the Faith. They may save their heads temporarily but it's where they're headed that they should have a heads up over. What good will your head help you in hell? Think about it if you still have your head about you.
But your soul? Ah, there's the cut. If there is a major reason why the current contemporary church will never truly sink below the surface, it is because enough of us will follow John and be Christ's eyes, hands and voices in a world so hungry for His touch. But if we have to, we'll be willing to lay our heads on the block, both as martyrs and because Jesus says if your head is a temptation to you, cut it off. Well, He didn't really say that, He referenced hands and feet, but you get the message. After all, what feature of our body is more susceptible to temptation than the head which sees, hears, smells and tastes? Would you rather have your sensory faculties or faith? One will be of no avail once you pass this mortal earth, whereas faith is forever. John The Baptist knew that fact and faced it with courage and confidence. Will we have that same resolve?