29 August, Saturday — Finding Strength in God

Aug 29 – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist

1 Cor 1:26-31
Mk 6:17-29

Whoever boasts should boast in the Lord”

Today’s first reading reflects and reiterates a key fundamental reality in much of Catholic teaching: that the weak shall gain God’s favour and the strong will be brought down. This is a theme that can be found in the Beatitudes, the Magnificat, and in the life of Jesus himself. It also forms the backdrop of the very gruesome story that we find the today’s gospel reading. For those who believe, who know without a doubt, that John the Baptist gained entry into heaven as a martyr, despite his lowly status in Herod’s court. Or perhaps he gained entry into heaven because of his lowly status in this world.

Our faith and our Lord’s teachings are a difficult pill to swallow in a world that is focused on career and material success. For many of us who were brought up to desire academic and career success, it makes no sense to be told that the ‘first will be last and the last shall be first’, or that the lowly will eventually gain favour with God. After all, weren’t we told that the first in class will gain favour with the teacher, or those with the highest GPAs will get the best jobs?

Yet all this is to neglect that at some point or other, we will find ourselves in positions of weakness. I experienced this myself after my third cycle of chemotherapy. Bald and emasculated in a hospital bed, my degrees, career success and hours spent at the gym did not matter a whole lot at all. I was truly, in the words of Bon Jovi, living on a prayer. There was pretty much not much else left that could save my life. But a prayer was more than enough. God came, and God healed.

So no matter how successful or powerful we are in this world, there will come a day when we become weak and dependent. Better that our God loves the weak, more than the powerful. For we know that He loves us for who we are inside, rather than what we have built up on the outside.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we are grateful for Your love and compassion, that lowly creatures such as us could find company in such divine Majesty. We pray for the humility and obedience to continue abiding by Your word.

Thanksgiving: We are thankful to be creations and disciples of our Lord, who continues to care for us in our hard times.

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