Paying the ultimate price

beheading of john the baptistI find it interesting when friends tell me they don’t like the Catholic Church or this priest or that parish because they are “so judgmental.” They always seem to be pointing out things that we are doing wrong.

Can’t they just let us be?

And my reply: Sure, if they don’t really care about your soul.

Believe it or not, the Church’s primary job is to do all it can to prepare us for the Kingdom of God. Passing judgment on certain things, certain behaviors, is a crucial part of that.

We should want to be judged. We should want our Church to continue to raise the bar, no matter how hard it is for us to grasp it.

Some respond, “Well I don’t need to be judged, I just want to be respected for who I am!”

If you don’t feel the need to be judged, then perhaps you feel you are perfect. So why bother? Really … why bother with any of this religion stuff if you don’t think you need to be judged?

We are human. We are all prone to sinful behavior. We all need confession.

John the Baptist, whose Passion and Death we commemorate today in the Church calendar, understood this well. Back in the days leading up to his tragic beheading, he had verbally blasted King Herod over his unlawful divorce and marriage.

John had his ways. A true desert dweller with a sharp tongue and a pure heart, he had become a “rock star” in his time. People would travel from all over to hear him preach. He constantly told them: Make straight the path of the Lord. Confess your sins. Be prepared!

The Baptist’s ministry, which was rising to new heights just as Jesus’ ministry was set to begin, was to baptize those seeking to be closer to God, thus preparing them to know and love the man, Jesus, who would follow him.

John could have taken the easy way out. He could have turned his attention away from the scandal of the day. But … I supposed Thomas More could have done the same thing with Henry VIII. So many saints and martyrs … then and now.

But by standing up for what was right, John paid the ultimate price. You can read how that turned out in today’s Gospel.

Today is a day to reflect on how we should respond when we are asked some very important questions about our faith; about what we truly believe and about our society.

Keep an eye on the headlines and see that Christians are increasingly being put to the test across the globe. Christian martyrs are being born into new life every day, just for speaking the truth.

John the Baptist spoke the truth with courage. In the end, he paid the price for doing so.

Pray that when the time comes – and it will – that we are asked to testify on behalf of Christ and his Church – we will show the same courage.

About the Author

Dan McFeely is a Carmel, Indiana, writer, communications business owner, book editor and a former professional journalist. Dan also works as an Adult Faith Formation Minister, currently serving as a spiritual director for the men's and women's Christ Renews His Parish program at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. He is a graduate of the Ecclesial Lay Ministry program offered by the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana and has studied theology at Marian University.

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  1. Thanks we should all be ready to die for truth raher than live alife of pretends ,the evil one is always knocking at our doors.

  2. On my journey to become a Catholic, one of the books I read was “Pilgrim Church” by William J. Bausch. The book left me with the impression that the Catholic Church has gone through many twists, turns and challenges since the time of Christ and Pentecost. Indeed, given the great periods of wonderful light and occasional darkness in historical development of the Church, I have concluded that the existence of the Church today is a Miracle. I believe the continued existence of the Church represents the will of God in a very troubled world that is sometimes filled with darkness. In short, the Mission of the Church to bring Light into the world and people to life, now and after they leave the world behind, is far from over.

    Recently, our Pastor, Fr. William (Bill) Byrne (Our Lady of Mercy, Potomac, Maryland) gave a homily in which he made clear that the members of our Church, and indeed all Christians, have a responsibility to share the “Good News”. The “Good News” is that God sent his son, Christ, into the world to die for all sinners so they might have eternal life. There is no question our actions and the way in which we live our life are relevant to this responsibility. He did not identify a particular method on how to share the “Good News”, for example, some may select good works, others may offer special prayers when necessary, and some may participate in small groups for the study of scripture and/or prayer, however, he did make clear that we could just not sit there and do nothing.

    After further consideration of Father Bill’s homily, I decided to share my Daily Prayer with Family, Friends and others I come in contact with, when appropriate. In 1980, I began writing a Daily Prayer when I converted to the Catholic Church. Initially, the prayer was just a few paragraphs. The prayer is now two pages long and reflects my pilgrimage in Faith over the past 3+ decades. I would not characterize the prayer as anything special, but rather as the thoughts and reflections of someone who is very thankful for God’s gifts of Christ and the Holy Spirit, as well as many blessings in life.

    For several decades, I have believed that a person’s foundation for life rests upon three basic pillars: Faith, Family and Friends. If these pillars are in good shape, I believe a person has a very good chance to make it through a continuous transition of wonderful and/or difficult times that comprise all the various elements of life, for example, see “Abandonment to Divine Providence” by Father J.P. de Caussade, S.J.. If these pillars are not in good shape, a person may find it very difficult to deal with the twists, turns and challenges that frequently occur in life.

    In brief, I was raised in the Methodist Church and have many warm, wonderful memories of vacation Bible school and youth programs. After my wife and I were married in 1966, I decided to become a member of the Catholic Church in 1980 after much reflection of Catholic theology, history and traditions. In 1980, Father Tom Wells, Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes (Bethesda, Maryland) recommended that I try daily Mass, and I have. It is a wonderful way to start the day and learn of God’s plan for the day.

  3. After reading the gospel i reflected so much on Heroid how we are sometimes like him when we want to fit in and how pride is truly a man’s downfall. The biggest promise we need to make is to love God with all our heart, mind and soul. This is like the constitutions The foundations of all promises any other promises are secondary to this. It should first meet the pre-request of the First one , will I still act out of love for my Saviour if I do A and B.

    Secondly I Loved how John the Baptist stood firm in his faith.. It takes me back to the biggest promise Which is to Love God with all my heart mind and soul. To pray constantly for God to increase my faith and give me the grace to Live & Die for him.

  4. Thank you for this powerful reflection! May God give us the courage to stand firm on our beliefs and live out the powerful words of God.

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