29 August, Monday — Secularism, materialism, individualism and relativism.

Aug 29 – The Beheading 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 2:1-5
Mk 6:17-29

It is against the law.

Singapore society is largely conservative in her views on several topics – abortion, homosexuality, casual sex, prostitution and the death penalty for drug offences. These have been topics of several debates; both for, and against.

Recently, I read an article in the news about a school counsellor who was penalized and suspended for his presentation on sex education to students. His presentation contained disparaging remarks about the LGBTQ+ community and this was material that was outside the purview of the education ministry’s curriculum. I am not clear about the exact content of the presentation, but some sweeping statements were made which were clearly factually wrong. What struck me was how ‘prudish’ Singapore has become more accepting, despite its official stance on the topic of LGBTQ+. This reflection does not debate the views for or against any community. But the first word that came to my mind was – secularism.

We prayed the Catholic 200 SG prayer throughout 2021. I call it the ‘-ism’ prayer, and I will admit that throughout the year, the prayer annoyed me because it was too long and full of tongue twisters. Sorry, Cardinal-Elect…..

Lord Jesus, our faith is in danger of becoming irrelevant because of secularism, materialism, individualism and relativism.

Before anyone gets up in arms about this reflection, I want to state categorically that I have absolutely nothing against the LGBTQ+ community and how people choose to live their lives. I have no right to demand that anyone should behave a certain way. In fact, I have very good friends who are gay; they are good, kind, intelligent, witty and extremely creative and I get on with them better than I do with some ‘straight’ people.

However, I do fear that my Catholic faith will be made redundant; being threatened. Will I one day too, give up my religious beliefs to popular opinions?

As I read today’s gospel and how Herod threw John the Baptist into jail for speaking a truth he didn’t like, I pondered on how Herod felt after doing so. He may have done it in a fit of anger. After all, no one likes to hear the truth – especially when the truth hurts, or when it touches a raw nerve. But the truth is, Herod knew in his heart that John was ‘a good and holy man’. Whenever John spoke, Herod listened intently and with interest. ‘When he heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him’.

When Herodias’ daughter asked for John’s head on a platter, why did Herod accede to the request and have John beheaded? “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.”

‘Yaya papaya’ (meaning boastful and arrogant)!! Was he afraid to lose face? Was he too afraid to stand up to what he believes is right? Did he also submit to popular culture?

Could Herod have not told the young girl, “I vowed to give you with a gift, but I made no promise to commit a crime.” or “When I made this commitment, I was mistaken, I now take it back.”

Whatever the reason for Herod’s actions, nothing good came out of it. Herod had a flawed moral conscience. His acts were terrible — he killed John the Baptist, a devoted servant of God who prepared people for Jesus’ coming. He angered the Jewish people. He infuriated his first wife’s father severely, who eventually launched an attack on Herod’s forces. And the Romans banished Herod and Herodias for the rest of their lives.

Brothers and sisters, I ask you, as I ask myself today — will we stand by our Catholic faith and our beliefs, listen to what God is telling us today? Let us not be like Herod –- who listened to John the Baptist; but failed to follow what he said.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Father, guide our hearts and minds. May we be strong and steadfast against secularism, materialism, individualism and relativism. I pray oh Lord that I will not abandon my faith to what is popular and convenient. John the Baptist, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for giving us such good role models like St John the Baptist. Let their actions inspire us to follow in their footsteps and may they inspire our thoughts to do the same.

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