350 years before the Americans dropped an atom bomb on Nagasaki, Saint Paul Miki and 26 companions were crucified there for being Catholics. Let us pray that as a result of their example and their witness we may come to appreciate the faith for which they readily laid down their lives.
Today’s gospel hints at several similarities between Our Lord and John the Baptist: both were arrested out of fear, executed and then buried by their disciples. In the account of John’s martyrdom we hear a hint of what will happen to Jesus. We also discover something crucial about the life and death of biblical prophets. Saint Mark tells us that King Herod “felt the attraction” of John’s words. While he finally honoured a foolish promise that led to John’s death, Herod may have at least toyed with the idea of conversion.
Although biblical prophets could be annoying, most people didn’t in fact find them totally obnoxious. Even those who exiled them or killed them may, like Herod, have been strangely attracted by the truth of the prophets’ words. And yet when it came to the crunch, they resisted because they were afraid that God was asking too much of them, demanding some change in their lives that they considered too difficult to make.
What about us? Does our continued conversion still include some corner of our life that we are unwilling to surrender? Do we feel the attraction of Our Lord’s words even as we consider them to be unrealistic? Are we toying with the idea of total and absolute conversion, but putting it off until some more opportune moment, perhaps to some time when it will ‘go on sale’ and we don’t have to pay the full price? The Eucharist helps us to move beyond window-shopping about conversion. Both old and new prophets show us it is very much worth the price.