Today we hear the end of the story that began yesterday in Jeremiah. Jeremiah came dangerously close to being put to death because he preached against the Temple. Though he escaped death in this instance, his life was constantly in danger. There was at least one other attempt to put him to death before the Babylonian Captivity began, the exile which had been the subject of Jeremiah’s preaching all along. Jeremiah was taken to Babylon along with the enslaved Israelites, but he was eventually released because the Babylonians looked upon him as a true prophet. The irony is that he was recognized by the Babylonians as God’s prophet while his own people did not heed his call for repentance. Sadly, after he was released by the Babylonians, he eventually ended up in Egypt where he was killed.
The Gospel today recounts the fate of John the Baptist who lost his life at the hands of Herod against whom John had frequently prophesied. Herod eventually confuses Jesus with John the Baptist because he recognizes in Jesus another man who was stalwart in his preaching against the sins of the powerful elite of Israel. Jeremiah, John and Jesus all preached the same message, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
As we read the Scriptures today, we are challenged to think about our own need to repent. We are never finished in what is nothing short of a life-long task of turning to the Lord. A few days ago, we heard the parable of the pearl of great price. The merchant will go to great lengths to acquire it. We must go to great lengths to gain the pearl of fidelity to the Lord. Just when we think we possess, we are confronted with the fact that it is a never-ending task.
The Eucharist is the food and drink we need to continue in our quest for true conversion. Strengthened by the grace we receive in this sacrament, we steadily make progress in our conversion of life until we find ourselves in the arms of the Lord.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator