Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus Yesterday, Today and Forever, 4th Friday (I), February 3, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Blaise
February 3, 2017
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, as we come to the conclusion of the Letter to the Hebrews on which we’ve been pondering for the last four weeks, the author reminds us that Jesus Christ on whom we are to keep our eyes firmly fixed is the “same yesterday, today and forever.” This is an important truth that we must make ever more practical. Many times people think that what Jesus said and did has an expiration date, that it may have been valid once but no more. One context in which this is true today is with regard to sexual morality in general and his teaching about marriage in particular. There are some, including bishops within the Church, that want to claim that Jesus’ words about how someone who divorces one and marries another commits adultery is too demanding, heroic for the age, and that therefore people should not be expected to follow it. But Jesus the Bridegroom, on whose faithful, fruitful and indissoluble bond with his Bride the Church is the ground for the sacrament of marriage, is the same today as he was 2,000 years ago. We may find the teaching hard — just like those two millennia ago did — but Jesus sometimes summons us to something difficult, but we’ll find the strength for it provided that, as we heard a few days ago, we keep our eyes firmly fixed on him and let go of every sin and persevere in running in his footsteps.
  • In the dramatic account of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, we can ponder both how he was a martyr for marriage and how 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 today’s 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, Saints 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. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus as they did help us to remember that his teaching on marriage is merciful and, even if it requires a type of martyrdom on earth, is worth it. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus also helps us to live out all of the other moral exhortations given to us today in the Letter to the Hebrews, to love our brothers and sisters because we see Christ in them, not to neglect hospitality because when we receive them we receive Christ, to remember prisoners because Christ was imprisoned, to detach ourselves from the love of money and be content with what we have because Christ is our treasure. All of those likewise pertain to marriage, as we must truly love those to whom we’re attracted and care for the good of their soul even at our personal loss, to welcome people as we would Christ and not relate to them selfishly according to our own desires, to remember Christ’s sufferings in order to help make our living aright possible, and to be content with what we have rather than looking for something else that is contrary to God’s law.
  • Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, who spoke the word of God to us and whose example of fidelity to Christ until the end should inspire us to heroism in the things of our life and to remember his eternally happy outcome after the childbirth of martyrdom. He was distinguished by the individual care he gave the people of his Diocese of Sebastea in ancient Armenia (now part of modern-day Turkey), his charity, his hospitality, his care for prisoners, his spiritual poverty, his love for marriage and for married couples, his keeping his eyes fixed on Christ. After Mass today there will be a special blessing through St. Blaise’s intercession of all people so that God may free them of illnesses of the throat and all other maladies. This goes back to the care St. Blaise gave to a boy who was choking because of a fish bone. After all human means had failed, St. Blaise prayed that God would free the boy and God did. The boy survived. And people have been turning to St. Blaise ever since. Today as we ask this blessing, we especially beg God through his intercession that we may use the health of our throats and overall to praise God and to give witness of him to others, just like St. John the Baptist did until his last breath.
  • We come now to the source that strengthened St. Blaise, 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. John and St. Blaise 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.