Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Giving in or Giving up

As I listened to the guided meditation podcast from the Jesuits in Britain today, I was struck by the contrast of the message from today's Gospel from Mark. We read of John the Baptist who is put in prison by Herod and eventually executed. John gave up his life so that Jesus could live and proclaim the word of God. Conversely we also read of Herod who gives into the demands of his wife who he unlawfully married and eventually kills John.


And where do I fit in this story? As I wrote in a previous post I believe there are no coincidences in Scripture. It speaks to us if our hearts and minds are open to it. In looking at John one finds a person who is willing to sacrifice his own life and was unwavering in his message, not compromising himself to the whims of society nor to the very threats to his existence. "He must increase; I must decrease," was his words to his followers. John's words about repentance were very clear even to those who might harm him, yet he carried on.

Here I find myself hesitantly desiring to please God. I want God in my life, but am I willing to go the extra yard and let others know no matter what the consequence? Am I willing to turn my life unconditionally over to God and repent in all my ways. Giving up myself and those things that I hold onto in times of difficulty such as resentment and judgement. Not yet.  Yes, let God increase in my life, but I want this done conditionally. I don't want God prompting me to speak out when people unfairly criticize my faith because I don't want to offend anyone. I like my comfort zone. But John makes one thing clear as he lays the path for Christ teachings, being a believer can and will be uncomfortable. It may even require a very personal sacrifice, but after all this is an example of what Christ did on the cross as well.

I find it much easier to give in. Herod was perplexed by John and liked listening to him. Perhaps he even considered giving up his marriage as he was drawn to this radical man who preached without fear. Herod even feared John as he knew John was holy as stated in Mark. However, when faced with the decision of sparing John's life, Herod falls to the desires of his vengeful wife. 

Giving into desires and temptation is something we always be faced with. Do I follow my desires and verbally blow someone up on Facebook because I know it will please others? Do I engage in gossip because everyone else is? Do I allow myself to be controlled by what others think of me and therefore take actions that are contrary to my faith? The list goes on and on. I can trace the numerous times where I have given in to all of the above. No I did not kill anyone, but certainly my words or actions were not constructive. There is a Herod in me. The people pleaser, the person who desires that everyone like him, the person who can compromise my values when it seems convenient. This is the easy way out. Being like John is difficult and requires unwavering faith. But I am not taking on this challenge alone.

Over and over again the Scripture remind us we are in God's hand. Psalm 118 gives us hope as the Lord is called upon despite insurmountable odds and provides refuge. Psalm 34 provides us reassurance that the Lord will answer our call even though we may be burdened. Both the Old Testament and New Testament have various passages that encourage us to take upon the challenge of living out the word of God. The book of Maccabees presents us with the mother and seven sons who were not willing to compromise their beliefs even in the light of a torturous death knowing full well of the consequences.  Leaning on these and many other passages should be reminder that we don't have to compromise our beliefs no matter how difficult the situation can be. The cross of truth may seem heavy as we carry it but we have help in the One that has preceded us. 

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