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Counting the Costs

Counting the Costs — What shall a man give in return for his soul?

Gospel Reflection for Friday January 5th, 2021 — Mark 6:14-29

For a few years now, I’ve been saying that “my calling is similar to that of John the Baptist — preaching repentance in the wilderness that is our modern age. Then I read today’s Gospel message, and pause, asking myself, “but what about the costs.”? St. John paid the ultimate price for his faith. Am I willing to go that far? Is my love for the Lord, and faith in His saving grace such that I would speak the truth in the midst threats of violence, personal injury, and even death? Yes, the costs of Christian discipleship is high.

Here in the United States of America, for most of the past two-hundred years, Christians have had it fairly easy. Very few of us have experienced serious persecution, physical violence, or death as a result of our ministry. Christians in many other countries have not been so fortunate.

Scripture is pretty clear that Christianity isn’t for the faint of heart. If they hated Jesus, they most certainly wil despise those who follow him. Jesus once said; “What shall a man give in return for his soul”? (Matthew 16:26) John lost his head, paying an extreme price.

In the book of Matthew we’re told by the Jesus that, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

Yes, we’re living in interesting times. Unlike previous generations in this country, despite our constitutional protections, we no longer have freedom of speech. Simply stating a different opinion, or even “alternative facts” as some call it these days, can get a person into deep trouble. Contradicting the popular narrative, even doing so with scientific facts, can get you labeled as someone using “hate speech.”

My friends, the Christian life is in many ways at odds with this 21st century culture. Not only do most simply think that believing in Jesus is foolishness, many are proclaiming that Christian teachings are evil and hateful. People of faith, right now, need to decide where their loyalties lie. Will you be faithful to Jesus Christ, or submit to the wisdom of this age?

I get it. We’re living in worrisome times. The potential costs of being a Christian today, go way beyond simply being uncomfortable speaking out, or being afraid of being laughed at or ridiculed. Today, not only are Christians being kicked off of social media platforms, they’re losing their jobs, and being threatened with violence and even death for supporting Christian moral values.

The Costs Are High — This Christian thing isn’t for pansies...

Christians are told that there is a price for admission — denial of self, and picking up your own cross. Many in our day conveniently forget these points. John the Baptist lost his head. Is there a price you won’t pay, or a bridge you won’t cross for your faith?

Are you standing for your lord? How far along the Via Dolorosa are you willing to go for your faith? John the Baptist lost his head. “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul”? (Matthew 16:26)

As it says in the Old Testament book of Proverbs, it’s time to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

GOSPEL — Mark 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.

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