The news about beheadings done by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are beyond words. Today, the Catholic Church also gives us a tale of a beheading - The Passion of John the Baptist. We remember the witness that he gave to the truth, the willingness to stand firm in the decision of doing God’s will and standing by His principles.
What does this teach us?
Firstly, it is a call of awareness to our faith. Do we really take it seriously or is it just some sort of condiment that we put on this food we eat called life? The Faith is not some psychological theory that is geared towards making our lives easier. In fact, much is demanded from us.
Secondly, how firm are we in the Faith? Are we planted and built up in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:7) or have we built the faith as a scaffolding on our desire to become something that is demanded by our egos? When the winds and waves of life blow, it is not our ego that will save us, it is that Anchor of the soul; Jesus Christ.
The ego always demands, it is in a perpetual state of wanting and it never gets enough. Once it gets its desire, it will want for something else. Beware of thinking that it is God’s will for us to have everything we want, He IS everything that we want. Scripture teaches us that he will provide for our needs and not our wants. Egoic wanting destroys the relationship with our First Love: Jesus Christ.
Finally, are willing to stand by the Faith and the passion that comes from it when our heads are gonna roll? James Foley, whom the world still mourns today showed us just that, much like John the Baptist. These people were unafraid, unashamed of the truth. Are we ashamed of the truth?
Christianity is not a religion of weaklings. It is not for those who would shy away from the spotlight. We are not called to stand in the spotlight but called to be the light of Christ in the world. We are called to walk wherever there is darkness and shine the light there, reflecting the truth Light, Jesus Christ.
No we don’t have to go to extremes, but there are so many small things that we can do to shine that light. That depressed classmate, that rejected and marginalised girl or guy in school. That mother or father whom we have been ignoring.
We might not be able to bring the whole world to Christ. But we can definitely be like John, a forerunner, preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness.
August 28th 1955: Emmett Till murdered
On this day in 1955, the 14-year-old African-American boy Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi. While visiting family in the state, Till allegedly flirted with the young white shopkeeper Carolyn Bryant while buying candy. Bryant told her husband and a few nights later he and his half-brother abducted Till and brutally tortured and murdered him. His mutilated body was found three days later in the Tallahatchie river; Till’s face was unrecognisable, but he was identified by the ring he wore engraved with his father’s initials that his mother gave him before he left for Mississppi. The viciousness of this unprovoked, racially-motivated crime sent shockwaves throughout the nation. The case drew attention to the oppression of African-Americans throughout the nation and provided a name and a face to the threat of lynching. Till’s mother Mamie, a highly educated woman who went on to become a devoted fighter for African-American equality, insisted on an open-casket funeral in order to show the world what was done to her young son. Thousands attended the funeral and thousands more saw the horrific images of Till’s body. Due to the fierce reactions the murder had engendered it was a particularly painful, but sadly expected, outcome when the all-white jury in Mississippi acquitted Till’s killers, despite Till’s great-uncle openly identifying them in court. A few months later the killers, now protected by double jeopardy laws, sold their story to Look magazine and openly confessed to the murder in chilling detail. Taking place a year after the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, the outrage over the murder galvanised the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. 100 days after Emmett Till’s murder Rosa Parks, on her way back from a rally for Till hosted by the then-unknown Martin Luther King Jr., refused to give up her seat for a white man on an Alabama bus. This sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, thus beginning the movement that would result in the dismantling of the system of Jim Crow segregation and win successes in promoting African-American social and political equality.