Imitating the Faith of Those Who Spoke and Lived God’s Word, Fourth Friday (I), February 6, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Holy Family Parish, New York City
Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of SS. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs of Japan
February 6, 2015
Heb 13:1-8, Ps 27, Mk 6:14-29


To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the dramatic account of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, we can ponder two things: first, he was a martyr for marriage; and second, he was a precursor of Christ in this martyrdom for marriage. He communicated that it was not right for Herod to marry Herodias, who was his sister-in-law and niece. Because of this witness to the truth, he was put to death. By this fidelity, he foretold in his body language the martyrdom of Christ in witness to the spousal covenant God made with his people.
  • In the first reading, the Letter to the Hebrews remarks on both of these points. First, about marriage, it says, “Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.” In an age in which marriage is so dishonored — both conceptually in trying to change its meaning to make it a husbandless or wifeless institution as well as morally through cohabitation, pre- and extra-marital sex, through sins within marriage, through divorce and “remarriage” — we are all called to honor marriage, even when modern Herodiases will accuse us of everything as a result. That leads us to the second point. Hebrews tells us, “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” The author was referring to, for example, SS. Peter and Paul and the vast multitude of Christians who had already given the supreme proclamation of the word of God in the bloody “outcome” of their lives. We’re called to imitate their faith, the faith that Jesus is worth living for and worth dying for.
  • The great saints we celebrate today, St. Paul Miki and his 26 companions, who died on this day 418 years ago in Nagasaki, did remember their leaders, consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. They had their ears clipped and were brought to Nagasaki to be crucified. It was there that with great faith they proclaimed the Gospel until they no longer had voice, giving a witness that led so many other Japanese — 35,000 between 1597-1639 — to remain faithful all the way to martyrdom. The Japanese martyrs knew that to be a Catholic meant to remain faithful to Christ as a faithful bride even when fidelity would cost them their lives. Today we’re called to remember them as our leaders who proclaimed the Word to us, to consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith, fighting the good fight, finishing the race and keeping the faith, so that we might share their eternal prize.
  • And we come now to the source that strengthened them, that has strengthened the saints and martyrs throughout the centuries. It’s the consummation of the spousal union that Christ the Bridegroom has entered into with the Church his Bride, which takes place on the altar, as the Bride takes within the Body and Blood of the Bridegroom and becomes one body, one flesh with him. John the Baptist points out to us anew the Lamb of God, the one who is the same yesterday, today and forever, who is about to strengthen us with the courage that made St. Paul Miki and companions martyrs.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Heb 13:1-8

Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.
Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment,
and of the ill-treated as of yourselves,
for you also are in the body.
Let marriage be honored among all
and the marriage bed be kept undefiled,
for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.
Let your life be free from love of money
but be content with what you have,
for he has said, I will never forsake you or abandon you.
Thus we may say with confidence:The Lord is my helper,
and I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me
?Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 27:1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
For he will hide me in his abode
in the day of trouble;
He will conceal me in the shelter of his tent,
he will set me high upon a rock.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Alleluia See Lk 8:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart,
and yield a harvest through perseverance.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 6:14-29

King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread,
and people were saying,
“John the Baptist has been raised from the dead;
That is why mighty powers are at work in him.”
Others were saying, “He is Elijah”;
still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.”
But when Herod learned of it, he said,
“It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”
Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers,
and the leading men of Galilee.
His own daughter came in and performed a dance
that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once on a platter
the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner
with orders to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter
and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.