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The Death of John the Baptist

Today’s guest post is by Brandon Rappuhn, a Logos marketing copywriter.

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.”

Today, two months after celebrating his birth, we remember the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. Just as he prepared the way for Jesus—first by his miraculous conception and annunciation, and then later in preceding Jesus’ public ministry with his preaching and baptizing—he would lead the final leg of his and Jesus’ journey toward their unjust public executions. In many ways, it was as if John the Baptist was an older brother to Jesus, testing the waters of integrity and courage from birth to death.

It was John’s courage and integrity as a Christ-proclaiming preacher that brought him to his martyrdom. John was imprisoned for publicly denouncing the immoral behavior of his government officials; Herod had divorced his wife and was sleeping with his sister-in-law. Thus did the blessed John begin a standard of martyrdom for Christians, who would for centuries be executed for standing up for moral integrity and the practice of their religious beliefs.

There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: “I am the truth”? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.

Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.

St. Bede the Venerable

As I contemplate Christ’s call to uphold the integrity of the truth, I’m challenged to think about the world I live in. Immorality saturates our news and media, and too often, public politics and personal practices stem from non-Christian influences. Western public laws fall further and further away from the righteousness for which we Catholics strive, and certain violent governments still torture and martyr Christians.

In these dark times, I find edification and solace as I read through The Imitation of Christ:

How quickly the glory of the world passes away! If only their lives had kept pace with their learning, then their study and reading would have been worth while.

How many there are who perish because of vain worldly knowledge and too little care for serving God. They became vain in their own conceits because they chose to be great rather than humble.

He is truly great who has great charity. He is truly great who is little in his own eyes and makes nothing of the highest honor. He is truly wise who looks upon all earthly things as folly that he may gain Christ. He who does God’s will and renounces his own is truly very learned

Thomas à Kempis

Just as in blessed St. John the Baptist’s time, there is plenty of immorality in the world around us.

And it will take a God-fearing, Scripture-knowing Catholic to stand up to it.

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